Monday, September 14, 2009

Spies Debate MPW Reader Poll

Recently, we asked MPW’s readers to state their approval for Governor Martin O’Malley and County Executive Ike Leggett, as well as characterize their attitude towards Maryland’s political leadership. The results are in and our poll-watching spies are now debating them.

Here are the poll results as of this writing:

Do you approve of Governor O’Malley’s job performance?
Approve: 50.7%
Disapprove: 49.3%
268 votes

Do you approve of County Executive Ike Leggett’s job performance?
Approve: 40.9%
Disapprove: 59.1%
198 votes

What do you think of Maryland’s political leadership?
Throw the bums out! 48.6%
They’re doing the best they can under the circumstances: 44.4%
They’re doing a great job! 7.0%
214 votes

The poll forbade multiple votes from the same IP address. There may have been a few people who voted from both their home and work computers, but there was probably not the same rampant button-pushing as in previous polls on this blog.

We asked a few of our spies what they thought about the results.

Spy #1:

I think Democratic activists are not too happy with O’Malley because he is not a strong leader. He speaks big and doesn’t use his political capital to do anything. He’s focused on his next office. I suspect your Republican readers are simply unhappy with him.

In the case of Leggett, he is not a strong leader, not a visionary, not an Executive. Doesn’t help that his council is crazy and impossible to work with. He’s a nice guy - so that helps him.

The tough economic times, of course, don’t help either gentleman.

Spy #2:

Reflects lack of money which forces unpopular choices. It also means some are mad about tax increases and others that we haven’t had more. Both, but especially Leggett, are not seen as leading strongly on major issues.

Spy #3:

I think that these numbers are a wake up call especially for Ike Leggett. Voters are paying close attention to the things that matter to them most. Voters are concerned about jobs, their own finances, and the rising cost of living in a down economy. Pocketbook issues matter to everybody now. In 2006 development was the primary issue in the election. Things have changed. There is no growth in our county. What we have learned is that no growth means higher taxes and fewer services. We need leaders with a vision. Could it be that Ike Leggett has lost touch with his constituents? Is it time for change to come to Montgomery County?

Spy #4:

I think these numbers are surprisingly good for Martin and surprisingly bad for Ike. Still, Ike is a lead-pipe cinch for reelection. It would be interesting to see what will happen to O’Malley’s numbers if Ehrlich runs against him.

Spy #5:

If MPW readership leans as Democrat/Progessive as I strongly suspect it does, two salient points can be gleamed from these numbers. First, O’Malley and Leggett both better pray that they don’t get serious Democratic Primary challenges (i.e. Duncan, Franchot, Knapp, Andrews). Second, the “throw the bums out” mentality that appears to exist among a large segment of the MPW readership is a serious warning sign for all incumbents. Unless the economy turns around soon, we could see a number of incumbents go down throughout the state in 2010.

Spy #6:

True leadership is tested during difficult times. We are going through such times, so it is expected that folks would give the Governor and Maryland Leaders a lukewarm approval.

Montgomery County’s delegation can always do a better job at being cohesive, and the Governor must continue to address the differences throughout the state.

Now, what is very interesting is to me is the lack of approval for Montgomery County’s Executive Leggett. I have yet to hear anyone (except some of his close friends and long-time supporters) praise his performance. I have heard people time and time again express their disappointment, especially regarding his lack of decision-making ability. It has been almost 4 years, and what has he done for Montgomery County? That is what folks seem to be wondering......Will he get another 4 years to show them something? We shall see.

Spy #7:

I think it reflects the bias of our overly politicized group. I find that while I don’t agree with every decision these administrations have made, at the broader level they don’t have many choices and none of them are good. Having listened closely to what’s said on both sides, I don’t see the critics of the two administrations offering anything as an alternative. They know what they don’t like, but can’t articulate a better plan. It has more to do with who people like than it does with preferring one agenda over another. And in these bad times, people are more concerned with trying to find political advantage for themselves and their friends than they are with actually solving any problems.

Spy #8:

These polls are easily manipulated, but it is interesting that Leggett’s approval is so low compared to O’Malley’s. O’Malley has not done much for Montgomery and remains Baltimore-centric. On the other hand, many of your readers have Ehrlich to compare him with. There is no punching bag Republican to compare Leggett with, just other Dems. It is also nice to see the readership recognizes that in many cases, these electeds are doing their best in a tough situation.

Spy #9:

I think the message on O’Malley is that most people can’t think of anything he’s done for the County, but he has had a bad economy and appears to be working hard (i.e. Newspaper stories indicating that is the case) so that gets him a roughly 50/50 split. The Leggett one is more interesting because I think that most of the readers of this blog could be categorized as generally supportive of him all things being equal. I think his numbers show a real disillusionment in his ability to lead. I am a little surprised by the broad category because in difficult economic times it is easy to say that all elected folks are doing a bad job and this shows a real awareness on the part of the electorate of the widespread severity of this recession. This taken with O’Malley’s split I think shows that displeasure with Ike is about much more than the economy - if it weren’t his numbers would look more like the other two.

Spy #10:

O’Malley has won your readers’ respect by taking controversial stands on issues like opposing the death penalty and supporting slot machines, the Inter County Connector and the Purple Line. Whether you agree or disagree with the positions he has taken, O’Malley deserves - and gets - credit for leadership and courage. Leggett, on the other hand, is not identified with any controversial positions. Even though he ultimately ended up backing the governor on each of the controversial issues mentioned earlier, Leggett equivocated, delayed making a decision, and finally announced a position that was a reversal of a previous position, so it was easy to be confused about his actual views. Leggett’s signature issue is pedestrian safety, a non-objectionable, plain-vanilla issue, and he has shown no measurable progress on it. Leggett’s desire to avoid making anyone angry ends up making fewer people support him.

Our Take:

To understand the results of the poll, we have to understand the people who cast the votes. Our readers are disproportionately Montgomery County residents, Democrats and liberals. They tend to be extremely well-informed about politics and a range of other subjects. They are both a natural base for any Democratic Governor as well as an important group to be cultivated by any political candidate, especially in Montgomery.

In good economic times, our readers would probably give any Democratic Governor a very high approval rating. And yet, they are split down the middle on Martin O’Malley. If an audience with a large share of Montgomery County liberals is iffy on the Governor, what does that mean for his popularity among less liberal segments of the population? The last time Gonzales Research ran a statewide poll on the Governor was in January 2009, when he scored a 49% approval rating. That was several budget cuts ago. It is time for a new poll.

The hot new rumor making its way through the underground is a joint Democratic primary ticket involving former Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan and former Prince George’s County Executive Wayne Curry, with the top of the ticket varying with each telling. If O’Malley is on thin ice with MPW readers, would he be vulnerable to such a two-headed challenge?

Our readers are unenthusiastic about County Executive Leggett. It’s not merely about the economy. We ran a poll on his approval a year ago, and while we no longer have the data, we believe that his approval rating was around 40% then as well. That does not necessarily spell doom for the County Executive because he has not yet drawn a credible challenger and the hour is growing late. If he does draw a quality challenge, our readers will give his opponent a long, hard look. And because MPW readers comprise a good chunk of Montgomery’s political class, that should provoke a bit of worry in the Leggett camp.