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Poll: Md. opposes gas tax hike — and executions

A new poll shows increasing support among Marylanders for abolishing the death penalty and strong backing for tighter gun controls, but strong opposition to an increase in the gas tax despite a recognition of transportation needs.

While Gov. Martin O’Malley has an approval rating of 54 percent, only 25 percent of Maryland voters think he should run for president, with 58 percent saying he should not.

The poll conducted this past week by Gonzales Research & Marketing confirms why any sort of gas tax increase has faced broad opposition in the legislature, despite several attempts to raise it over the last five years.

While 94 percent of Marylanders recognize the need to maintain and improve Maryland’s transportation system, 73 percent oppose a 10-cent-per-gallon increase in the gasoline tax. The opposition was broad across party lines and gender. The poll did not ask about another idea O’Malley has floated: increasing the sales tax to fund transportation needs.

A portion of the corporate income tax already goes into the Transportation Trust Fund.

Death penalty

The poll also found opposition to the death penalty has increased 8 points over the last two years to 44 percent, and support has declined by a similar margin to 49 percent. O’Malley has made abolishing the death penalty a key legislative priority after failing to achieve it two years ago.

Opposition to the death penalty is strongest among Democrats (60 percent) and African-Americans (59 percent). Support for executions is strongest among Republicans (77 percent) and whites (53 percent).

But three out of five respondents said the sentence of life without parole is an acceptable alternative to the death sentence.

Gun control

There is a similar partisan divide on banning assault weapons in Maryland, as O’Malley has proposed, with 58 percent overall supporting such a ban. Support is strongest among Democrats (70 percent) and women (65 percent). But opinion is divided over what would do more to reduce violence in schools: 44 percent say stricter gun control; 36 percent say armed guards in schools.

The poll also found President Barack Obama had his highest approval rating among Marylanders since his first inauguration, with 65 percent approving. But the partisan divide was a chasm. Among Democrats, 92 percent approve of the job the president is doing, and 83 percent of Republicans disapprove, with 57 percent of independents approving.

The poll was conducted by telephone Jan. 15-20, surveying 801 registered voters, giving a margin of error of 3.5 percent.