Maryland state house, ballot excerpts, and check marks

In the first nonpartisan public opinion poll of the general election season, more than 1,000 Marylanders answered questions ranging from whom they plan to vote for to the top issues they’re considering. Here are some takeaways from the poll, conducted by Goucher College in partnership with The Baltimore Banner and WYPR radio.

The race for governor is in Wes Moore’s hands

As the saying goes, the only poll that matters is the one on Election Day. And Democrats are keeping that in mind, while still relieved that this poll shows Democrat Wes Moore is in a strong position over Republican Dan Cox.

Moore had 53% support, compared to 31% for Cox. Just 9% of voters polled were undecided.

Each candidate had strong support within their own party, with 85% of Democrats supporting Moore and 79% of Republicans supporting Cox. Independent voters were divided, with 34% supporting Moore, 33% supporting Cox and 10% supporting Libertarian David Lashar.

Of those who had picked a candidate, 69% were certain of their choice.

The 2022 Goucher Poll looks a lot like a September 2018 Goucher Poll, where incumbent Republican Gov. Larry Hogan also held a 22 percentage point lead, over Democrat Ben Jealous, with about 70% of respondents saying they had made up their mind. Hogan went on to a 12-point win.

With Democrats making up more of the electorate than Republicans and independents combined, and with very few undecided and uncertain voters for Cox to appeal to, that puts the race firmly in Moore’s hands.

Democrats aren’t resting on their laurels

Even before the poll came out showing strong leads for all their statewide candidates, Democratic leaders were cautioning supporters not to relax.

At the ceremonial opening of a statewide campaign headquarters in Prince George’s County over the weekend, Yvette Lewis, chairwoman of the state party warned: “Don’t be raising those champagne glasses yet!” Lewis and top candidates encouraged the crowd to keep up with phone-banking, knocking on doors and spreading the word about their candidates.

And after the poll came out on Monday, Moore’s team and other leading Democrats doubled down on that message.

“While it’s clear Wes Moore has momentum, we can’t take our foot off the gas for even a second,” Moore spokesman Carter Elliott IV said in a statement sent to The Banner on Monday.

“This election is NOT over. We all still need to SHOW UP and VOTE to make sure this support becomes a reality,” Democratic strategist Alexandra Hughes wrote on Twitter. “Don’t assume your friend, neighbor, colleague, sister, brother, spouse has it covered for you.”

Abortion motivates Democrats, not Republicans

The poll asked voters whether the Supreme Court decision that overturned the Roe v. Wade protection for abortion access would influence their decision to vote. And not surprisingly, Democrats were more motivated than Republicans.

Among Democrats — who tend to favor keeping abortion legal and accessible — 61% said the overturning of Roe made them more motivated to vote this fall, and just 3% said it made them less motivated.

Meanwhile, 80% of Republican voters — who are more likely to oppose abortion — said that overturning Roe made no difference either way on whether they’re motivated to vote. Only 17% of Republicans said the court decision motivated them to vote this fall.

Women were more likely to say the abortion decision made them more motivated to vote, 49%, with another 44% saying it made no difference. For men, 38% said they were motivated to vote by the abortion ruling and 58% said it made no difference.

Marijuana legalization poised to pass

Question 4 on the general election ballot will ask voters whether marijuana should be legalized for all adults to use. The poll found 59% support for legalization, with 34% opposed and 7% undecided.

Legalization had strong support from Democrats (70%) and majority support from independent or unaffiliated voters (53%). But a majority of Republicans are opposed, with 53% saying they’d vote against legalization and 42% voting in favor.

The poll was conducted before a pro-legalization campaign has kicked into high gear. Goucher College pollster Mileah Kromer said support for legalization could increase once voters start seeing an ad campaign from marijuana supporters.

With marijuana being a potentially lucrative industry, those who hope to profit will pay to get voters’ attention as Election Day approaches.

“People really tune in in that last month,” Kromer said.

Gov. Larry Hogan remains popular, while Biden and Trump are less popular

No surprise here, outgoing Republican Gov. Larry Hogan maintains strong popularity in Maryland.

His approval rating typically is in the 60%-plus range, and this latest poll is no exception: 62% of those polled either “approve” or “strongly approve” of the job Hogan is doing.

Hogan’s disapproval rating is 28%, and 10% didn’t know or refused to answer.

Hogan is actually more popular among Democrats (64%) and independent or unaffiliated voters (65%) than he is among Republicans (58%).

Neither current President Joe Biden nor former President Donald J. Trump have a ton of admirers in Maryland.

Biden, a Democrat, has a 48% approval rating, while Trump’s favorability stands at 32%. A total of 61% of those polled had an “unfavorable” or “very unfavorable” view of the Republican ex-president.

This Goucher College Poll is a journalism collaboration between the Baltimore Banner and 88.1, WYPR-FM. Read and listen all this week for more stories about what we learned.

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