First-term Republican Gov. Larry Hogan continues to ride high in the polls where it comes to his job approval rating and is outpacing Democrats in head-to-head challenges, according to a new poll released by Goucher College.
The full results of the latest survey, however, are more of a mixed bag for both the governor and Democrats and nearly 25 percent of those asked said they are undecided despite an intense interest in the coming election.
“It’s really a mixed bag of results for Democrats and Gov. Hogan,” said Mileah Kromer, a political science professor at Goucher College and director of the Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center.
Hogan continues to enjoy some of the best job approval ratings of any state leader in the nation. Of those surveyed, 69 percent say they approve or strongly approve of Hogan’s performance coming out of the 2018 General Assembly session. That’s an eight-point bump from Goucher’s February poll and nearly identical to Hogan’s best approval rating — 70 percent in September 2016.
Hogan also enjoys double-digit leads in head-to-head contests against the each of the Democrat candidates competing in the June primary.
The field of primary contenders includes Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III; former NAACP President Ben Jealous; Baltimore County Executive Kevin B. Kamenetz; Montgomery County state Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr.; technology policy expert and senior fellow at Johns Hopkins University and former Hillary Clinton aide Alec Ross; Jim Shea, the former chair of Venable LLP and Democratic party activist and donor; and former Michelle Obama aide Krishanti Vignarajah.
Ralph Jaffe, an activist and educator and perennial candidate, was not included in the poll. He has not participated in recent forums over the past month and is not raising money.
Hogan maintains rough 13-point leads over both Baker and Jealous. Against Kamenetz and Madaleno, Hogan holds a 17- and 18-point lead respectively.
“People do look (at the polling). Folks, the donor class, who want Hogan gone are looking. Electability matters,” Kromer said. “You’re ability to beat the governor matters. You can also make the argument that Rushern Baker doesn’t do that much better than the rest of the field. You can make that argument, which (other Democratic candidates) will.”
The remaining candidates all trail the governor by 20 points, according to the poll.
In the case of each candidate, there are roughly 22 percent to 27 percent of voters who say they remain undecided.
“You can micro-target your way through the primary but you still need to get your name out there statewide to beat Hogan,” Kromer said.
Hogan strong on some issues, Democrats on others
In addition to a strong job approval, voters appear to be happy with Hogan on a number of issues.
Hogan’s efforts to portray himself as a moderate continue to gain traction with 51 percent of those surveyed saying that is how they see the governor. The figure is the highest since Goucher asked the question in September and February.
Voters also said they see Hogan as superior to Democrats when it comes to handling issues such as the state budget, transportation and infrastructure, economic development, taxes and crime and criminal justice issues.
Kromer said those issues and views that Hogan is a moderate are “central to his identity as governor” and his campaign to become the first two-term Republican governor in the state since Theodore McKeldin.
Those surveyed, however, credited Democrats with having the edge on handling the environment and education.
Nearly a full two-thirds of those surveyed said government should do more to solve problems and help people, roughly tracking with the state’s more than 2-1 voter registration that favors Democrats.
“That really kind of support is the demarcation line between Democrats and Republicans and shows there is a strong Democratic flavor to the state,” Kromer said.
Hogan and Democrats are seen as equally strong on handling issues related to gun violence, according to the poll.
National politics and the current president remain the wild card in the coming election with Maryland Democrats predicting a Blue tidal wave of anti Donald Trump sentiment swamping Hogan in November.
Goucher’s poll shows strong interest in the coming election with 92 percent of those surveyed saying they were likely or absolutely certain they will vote in November.
Voters continue to see Hogan as someone who as managed to distance himself from Trump, who remains wildly unpopular in a blue Maryland. About 47 percent of those polled said Hogan has distanced himself from Trump compared to 27 percent who said he’s not done enough to distance himself and 9 percent who said it’s too much.
The poll also found that just 25 of voters said Trump will have “a lot” of effect on influencing their vote.
In the case of that segment of voters, Hogan would be trounced.
Kromer, using a head-to-head match up with Baker, said data shows those who see Trump as a major influence on their vote break for Baker 48-28 percent.
But in that same head-to-head, voters who see Hogan as a moderate and do not consider Trump an influence on their vote break for the incumbent governor 52 percent to 22 percent.
Kromer said “the full force of the Trump effect likely not to be felt by Hogan because people feel like he distances himself enough” unless the dynamic changes between now and November.