Marylanders have mixed views of the direction of the state, with continued concerns about crime, education and the economy, according to a new survey from Goucher College Poll and The Baltimore Banner.
And they’re also concerned about an issue that Gov. Wes Moore has pegged as one of his key priorities: eliminating childhood poverty in the state.
The poll asked a representative sample of 800 Marylanders about their view of the state’s direction. Nearly half, 47%, said things in Maryland are heading in the right direction, while 42% said things are on the wrong track. About 10% weren’t sure.
Poll participants were also asked about several issues and whether they thought it was important for the governor to address them, including crime, childhood poverty, public transportation, the economy, public schools, renewable energy and racial equity.
“Marylanders, by and large, want to see the state make progress on crime, public schools and the economy,” said Mileah Kromer, director of the Sarah T. Hughes Center for Politics at Goucher College and director of the poll.
Concern about crime was near-universal, with 83% of respondents saying it was “extremely” or “very” important for the governor to address. Just 13% said crime was only “somewhat” important and only 2% said it wasn’t important at all.
“Crime is an important thing because I live in the county and work in the city, and I’m constantly going between the two,” said Chris Steets, a Parkville Republican who voted for Moore, a Democrat.
When he and his wife consider where to go out for dinner or entertainment, crime in the city has them more often choosing to stay in the suburbs for date nights.
The couple used to go out often in the city, “but now the county, because it’s not worth it for the dangers in the city.”
Steets said he supports giving people second chances and probation instead of jail time. But he worries that when police don’t make arrests in the first place, there’s no documentation that could indicate an individual is repeatedly getting into trouble.
Violent crime is concerning to many Marylanders, particularly as Baltimore City continues to suffer from unrelenting violence, including more than 300 homicides each year for the the past eight years.
The concern about crime cut across party lines and all genders, ages, races, regions and income levels.
Moore, a Democrat, spoke broadly about working with local governments to combat crime and improve public safety as he talked to reporters last week about his first 100 days in office.
“There are certain things that we are going to focus on — that we’re not going to wait until next January, or the next legislative session — to get done,” Moore said. “Things like ensuring that we can we can deal with the issue of crime and public safety.”
Moore noted the state’s spending on aid to local police departments and improving mental health resources as part of an “all of the above” approach to public safety.
“The best way to be able to deal with it and deal with a lot of the root causes that we’re seeing with violence and crime inside neighborhoods is focused on employment, focused on opportunities and making sure that we’re thinking about it not just from a frame of punitive, but thinking about it from a frame of opportunity,” Moore said.
Improving public schools also had strong support, with 82% saying it’s “extremely” or “very” important. Just 13% said schools were “somewhat” important and only 3% said schools were not an important issue for the governor.
Improving the economy and jobs also was a big issue for those polled, with 79% saying it’s “extremely” or “very” important and 19% saying it’s “somewhat” or not important.
For childhood poverty, 77% agree with the governor that it’s an “extremely” or “very” important issue, and 20% saying it’s “somewhat” or not important.
Moore has made ending childhood poverty a signature goal of his new administration. In the recently completed General Assembly session, he succeeded in passing legislation that accelerates the minimum wage to $15 per hour, expands a child care tax credit and makes permanent an enhancement to a tax break for the working poor.
Those initiatives, the governor has said, are the first steps toward his “audacious goal” of eliminating childhood poverty.
“We can, and we will, end child poverty in the state of Maryland,” Moore vowed in his State of the State address in February.
Goucher College Poll surveyed a representative sample of 800 Marylanders, including 768 who are registered voters, by landline and cell phone between April 18 and 23. The poll has a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.