A majority of Maryland residents approve of the job Gov. Larry Hogan has done in his first year and a slightly smaller majority view the Republican favorably, according to a poll released by the Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center at Goucher College.
The poll also found a wide disparity among racial groups regarding treatment by police and that a vast majority of Marylanders surveyed said they are paying attention to the trials of six Baltimore City police officers charged in connection with the police-custody death of Freddie Gray.
With Hogan still in the job less than a full year, 58 percent of those polled said they approve of the job he is doing so far. Not surprisingly, 80 percent of Republicans hold that view, but a majority of Democrats surveyed, 54 percent, also said they believe the new governor is doing a good job. Additionally, 54 percent of those polled said they hold a favorable view of Hogan.
The numbers released Monday show the public’s favorable view of Hogan and his job performance growing since February when the college produced its previous poll. At that time, when Hogan had been in office for about a month, 33 percent of those surveyed had a favorable opinion of him and 21 percent said they had an unfavorable opinion.
Additionally, 56 percent of those responding said the state was headed in the right direction. That number is up 2 percentage points from February and 18 points from September 2014, just before the election.
“Something has happened and it is resonating and people are happier with the way the state is going,” said Mileah Kromer, director of the center.
The poll suggests that that something might be Hogan’s focus on economic development and job growth, taxes and job creation.
While education topped the poll as the issue most said they cared about, 38 percent of those surveyed listed jobs, economic development or taxes as their top concerns.
“That was the focus of Hogan’s campaign and his focus going forward,” Kromer said.
Since taking office, Hogan has announced reductions in tolls and some fee reductions. Kromer said the poll doesn’t provide enough detail to determine if any of those were a driving force behind the poll numbers.
“It’s the larger combination of trying to reduce taxes and fees for Marylanders that’s resonating,” Kromer said. “That’s why people elected him and it’s a message that he has remained committed to.”
The center used cell and landline phones to survey 636 Marylander residents 18 years old and older from Sept. 26-30. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.9 percent.
The survey also revealed a stark racial divide in how police are viewed.
Less than half of those surveyed said they believe “people of all races receive equal treatment by police” in their communities. Those numbers, however, change dramatically when broken down by race.
Among whites surveyed, 60 percent agreed with the question compared to 27 percent of blacks surveyed.
The poll also found that a vast majority of those surveyed — 82 percent — are paying some or a lot of attention to the trials of six Baltimore City police officers charged in connection with Gray’s death. Only 17 percent said they were paying little to no attention to the court proceedings, which are scheduled to begin in Baltimore City Circuit Court on Nov. 30 with the trial of Officer William Porter.
Despite the large number of people following the news coverage of the issue, Kromer said she does not believe it bodes poorly for the upcoming trials.
“A lot of people are watching but prosecutors and defense attorneys should be able to weed out people and seat an appropriate jury,” Kromer said.