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O’Malley popularity in Md. hits all-time high

Gov. Martin O’Malley is more popular among Marylanders than he has ever been, according to a Gonzales Research poll released Tuesday.

According to the poll, 58 percent of Marylanders approve of the job O’Malley is doing, up 10 percentage points from the most recent Gonzales poll in October.

The only other time that more than half of respondents to a Gonzales poll approved of O’Malley’s job in office was a few months after he took office. In March 2007, O’Malley had a 52 percent approval rating. In all subsequent polls, his numbers were lower, dropping to just under 40 percent approval in early 2008, then hovering around 48 percent approval for all of 2009 and 2010.

The poll was conducted by telephone between Jan. 13 and 19. A total of 802 registered voters who vote on a regular basis were interviewed. Interviews representing diverse political and racial backgrounds were conducted in regions throughout the state. The poll was not commissioned by any special interest group, and has a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.

Gonzales partner Laslo Boyd said that the governor’s high approval rating is striking, though not altogether unusual for an incumbent who recently won re-election. O’Malley has spent the last several months campaigning and getting a positive message out, which Boyd said is reflected in the findings. Only 30 percent of people disapprove of O’Malley’s job performance, while 13 percent have no opinion.

Breaking it down further, Democrats, Republicans and independents all showed increases in their approval of O’Malley, Boyd said. Democrats posted the highest approval rating, with 77 percent, while 22 percent of Republicans and 55 percent of independents approved of his job in office.

The high numbers may not be sustainable, Boyd said.

“It is not going to be surprising if his approval goes down,” he said. “The governor has some tough decisions to make over these next couple months.”

The poll also asked people about three issues certain to come up in the General Assembly: whether respondents wanted to strengthen gun control laws, whether they favor the death penalty and whether they would support a law allowing same-sex marriage.

Just over half of those polled — 51 percent — said they would favor same-sex marriage laws that would give gay and lesbian couples the same legal rights as heterosexual couples in tax exemptions, inheritance and pension coverage. There were 44 percent who were against that kind of law, while 5 percent gave no response. The support for same-sex marriage came mostly from Democrats and independents; 65 percent of Democrats and 52 percent of independents favor such a law, while 73 percent of Republicans oppose it.

There has been much talk about different bills being proposed by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to legalize same-sex marriage in Maryland during this General Assembly.

“The numbers are reasonably striking, in that clearly there is a majority in support of it,” Boyd said.

More than half of respondents — 56 percent — also said that they favored the death penalty in Maryland. A total of 36 percent opposed it, and 8 percent gave no response. Six out of 10 respondents said they felt that life in prison without the possibility of parole would be an acceptable alternative to the death penalty, while a third of respondents said it would not.

Poll responses about gun control were split. A total of 45 percent said that gun control laws in the state should be stricter. The remaining respondents were split — 24 percent said the laws should be less strict, while 26 percent said they should be kept as they are. These responses were starkly colored by party affiliation. Sixty-three percent of Democrats wanted stricter laws, and 46 percent of Republicans said they should be less strict. (An additional 39 percent of Republicans would like the laws to be kept as they are.)

“Members of the General Assembly could infer that there is support for more gun control,” Boyd said.

Other statistics in the poll include:

(bullet) 58 percent of respondents said that the economy is the most important issue facing the state. More than half of Marylanders have felt this way about the economy since last January. The most recent number is 3 percentage points higher than the last poll in October.

(bullet) 54 percent of Maryland voters approve of President Barack Obama’s performance in office, up from 52 percent in October. Four out of 10 respondents disapprove of Obama’s performance, while 6 percent had no opinion.

(bullet) 37 percent of Maryland voters said that the harsh tone of political campaigns contributes to violence, while 58 percent said they did not think it is a factor. Boyd said that Maryland did not have as many sharp-toned political ads this last election season, which may have influenced the responses. Sixty-five percent of respondents, however, said they felt that violence in TV, movies and music lyrics contributes to violence.

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