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Eye on Annapolis

The Daily Record's Maryland state government blog

Hogan still popular but poll suggests competitive 2018

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh and Gov. Larry Hogan hug after a news conference Thursday. (Maximilian Franz)

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh and Gov. Larry Hogan hug after a news conference earlier this year. (Maximilian Franz)

Gov. Larry Hogan remains popular in a Democratic state but a poll released Monday by Goucher College suggests a competitive 2018 election is on the horizon.

The first-term Republican continues to enjoy a popularity rating of more than 60 percent, seemingly unaffected by outside forces such as a president from his own party who is overwhelmingly unpopular in Maryland and from criticisms of some in his party over stances on issues such as paid sick leave, fracking and the removal of the Roger Brooke Taney statue.

Still, the survey of 671 Maryland residents polled by the Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center at Goucher showed a dip in the governor’s re-electability as well as an increase in those who expressed concern about the direction of the state.

“That’s the big thing, he’s still doing really well and people really like him and I think it is mostly because of the positive view folks have about the (state) economy,” Kromer said.

Despite some concerns, Goucher’s poll is mostly good news for the incumbent governor, who wants to become the first Republican to be re-elected governor since Theodore McKeldin.

About 62 percent of those polled said they approve of the job done by Hogan since he was sworn in in January 2015. That’s a number that is almost identical to the same poll conducted in February though down from the rarefied air of a 70 percent approval rating in Goucher’s September 2016 survey.

The governor also remains popular within what Kromer calls “the Hogan coalition,” made up mostly or Republicans and independent voters and some Democrats. More than seven in 10 independents and eight in 10 Republicans say they believe Hogan is doing a good job.

“I think that he’s put himself in the most advantageous position he can right now in a blue state but you don’t ever forget that the party identification numbers are in his favor,” said Kromer. I don’t know how many Republicans out there were running around saying (Hogan’s re-election) is a sure thing.”

Despite his popularity, the survey suggests some challenges for Hogan, who has seen his re-elect numbers dip from 57 percent in a survey in February to 51 percent seven months later.

“I don’t think that his numbers are soft as much as this is going to be a competitive election,” said Kromer. “I don’t think Larry Hogan is any more vulnerable that his Democratic competitor is going to be. I think this is a prelude to a really competitive election.”

Additionally, the number of people who say Maryland is on the right track dropped to 55 percent with 31 percent saying the state is moving in the wrong direction. Both numbers are lower than a Goucher Poll in October 2015, just nine months into Hogan’s first year.

“It makes me wonder what else is going on to make that number drop,” Kromer said. “If I was Larry Hogan, I would be pleased at my approval rating and I would look cautiously at the right track-wrong track numbers. Certainly trying to find the underlying issues that caused this drop is important.”

Todd Eberly, a political science professor at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, said there is a softening of Hogan’s re-elect numbers but it’s mostly driven by Republicans angry about issues such as the removal of the Taney statue from the State House grounds and the governor’s distance from Trump and not from Democrats angry with the president.

“They are the folks he’s most likely to get back,” Eberly said. “Partisans typically come home.”

Hogan won in 2014 on a messages of fiscal responsibility, lower taxes and improving the state’s economy.

About 57 percent of those surveyed say they hold a positive view of the state economy. The economy tops the list of campaign issues, with 24 percent of those surveyed saying that jobs, taxes and the budget is the most important issue facing the state.

“It’s clear that’s what people want to hear the most about,” Kromer said of the coming campaign. “This suggests to me you better come with an economic plan. Democrats are going to have to differentiate their plan from Hogan’s. They’re certainly going to push back on him on education, which is a very, very close second. So they’re going to have to draw the distinction that their economic plans for the economy and jobs are just better than Larry Hogan’s.”

President Donald Trump remains wildly unpopular in a deep-blue state such as Maryland, with 71 percent of those polled saying they disapprove or strongly disapprove of his job. Inside that number is 93 percent of Democrats and 71 percent of independent voters who do not approve of Trump’s first eight months in office.

Hogan has managed to find a sweet spot where most agree he’s different than Trump and those who are angered by that are so-called hard-core Republicans, according to Eberly.

“The big question is, do they stay or do they turn out and vote,” Eberly said.

Democratic candidates and legislators have attempted to portray Hogan as a Trump apostle or “the Trump of State Circle.” However, 43 percent of those surveyed by Goucher said they believed Hogan, who cast a vote for his father rather than Trump in 2016, has appropriately distanced himself from the new president — an opinion that crosses party lines, gender and racial demographics.

“Democrats definitely don’t like Trump — 93 percent, that’s high,” Kromer said. “Trump only hurts Hogan if (Democrats) actually thread that needle. They have to thread the needle. They have to make a direct Trump-Hogan connection. The approval ratings are almost the opposites of each other. It’s almost as if they’re not the same person.”

Kromer said the poll “suggests to me (Democrats’) effort would be better spent establishing a really clear record on jobs and economic growth. A more effective use of campaign time would be to spend time convincing Marylanders that Democrats have a better path forward on the economy and jobs and education.”

 

Question: Do you [approve or disapprove] of the way Larry Hogan is handling his job as governor?

FEB 15 OCT 15 FEB 16 SEPT 16 FEB 17 SEPT 17
Strongly disapprove (p) 4 3 4 3 7 6
Disapprove 13 15 13 9 10 10
Approve 32 42 43 45 36 42
Strongly approve (p) 8 16 20 25 27 20
Don’t know (v) 43 23 21 17 20 20
Refused (v) 1 1 0 1 0 1

 

Question: Over the past year, has Governor Larry Hogan distanced himself [too much, about the right amount, or too little] from President Donald Trump?pie-chart

 


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