As Marylanders prepare to vote this fall, they’ve got weighty issues on their minds: crime, education and the economy.
Those were the top three issues identified by 748 registered voters who were surveyed by Goucher College in partnership with The Baltimore Banner and WYPR radio.
Poll participants were read a list of issues and asked which of them were in the top three influencing their choice for governor. The economy and taxes ranked in the top three for 64% of those polled, crime and public safety ranked in the top three for 62% of respondents, and public schools and education ranked in the top three for 60%.
Those three issues — crime, schools and the economy — were important to voters regardless of their party affiliation.
Other options included infrastructure like roads and bridges (35% said it was a top three issue), environmental issues (28%), affordable housing (26%) and public transportation (8%).
The top candidates for governor — Democrat Wes Moore, who had 53% support in the poll, and Republican Dan Cox, who had 31% support — have discussed crime, schools and the economy in their campaigns.
Living in Northeast Baltimore, Barbara “Mickey” Gallagher said crime and public safety is her top concern. The city continues to reel from persistent levels of gun violence, with over 300 slain each year for the last several years.
“Don’t get me wrong, crime is everywhere, not just Baltimore City,” said Gallagher, an independent voter who is retired. “Sometimes Baltimore gets a bad rap.”
Gallagher said she’s tired of politicians talking about crime but not making much progress.
“I do know this much; you can’t keep trying the same thing over and over. It’s not working. You need to try something different,” she said.
Part of the solution, she thinks, is education. Young people could be better trained for skilled trades. That way, young people could give back to the community instead of falling into trouble, she said.
“A lot of people say that’s old-fashioned or whatever,” she said. “But you’re always going to need someone who is a plumber, you always need someone to fix a car.”
Michelle O’Brien also is thinking about education as she decides how to cast her vote in the governor’s race this fall.
O’Brien said her kids went through public schools and had a positive experience. She’s concerned that elected officials haven’t always spent money on education as they’ve promised.
“Public education should be supported, not trashed. It upsets me to see people I know work so hard have to fundraiser materials for their own classrooms,” said O’Brien, an independent voter and small business owner who lives in Queen Anne’s County.
O’Brien said she won’t support “anyone on Dan Cox’s team,” but isn’t yet behind Moore, either. She’s concerned that Moore may have an unrealistic goal to “fix everything all at once.” And he hasn’t spent enough time learning about Eastern Shore issues.
Dundalk resident Mary Pizzica said she’s “probably” going to vote for Moore, saying that Cox is “too far right, to the point of crazy.”
The economy and inflation are critical issues for Pizzica. She’s a senior citizen living on a fixed income and has been hit hard by rising prices.
“The cost of food and gas and electric and everything is going up, up, up,” said Pizzica, a registered Democrat.
Pizzica said the drivers of inflation are complex, ranging from the Russian invasion of Ukraine to pandemic-related delays in the supply chain. Though it’s a difficult problem to solve, she’d like to see more action from leaders.
“I don’t think they’re talking about it enough and I don’t think they’re explaining to people enough,” Pizzica said.
And while crime, schools and the economy are near-universal issues, sometimes other issues motivate voters.
Baltimore County resident Clark Miller took the poll and said he’s a single-issue voter and his top concern wasn’t one of the choices. He wants state lawmakers in the Maryland General Assembly to work year-round.
“No one is talking about my one issue,” Miller said. “The only issue I care about is the legislature has to be a full-time job.”
Miller, a consultant and registered Democrat, said he’s tired of seeing good legislation fail because lawmakers run out of time in their 90-day session, or they don’t have time to override vetoes. Of particular concern to him was an unsuccessful bill to support health care for Marylanders who are transgender.
The legislature, he said, “just dropped them and said, ‘We can’t do anything this year.’”
Baltimore Banner reporter Emily Sullivan contributed to this report.
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.