Josh Kurtz: Hogan Rides High in a Democratic Poll, Too

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As if there was any doubt that Gov. Larry Hogan (R) is popular these days, a Democratic poll confirms it.

On the heels of news about Goucher College andWashington Post polls, both of which showed Hogan with numbers that any politician would envy, the new poll, conducted for a prominent Maryland Democrat and obtained by Center Maryland, contains plenty of additional good news for the governor.

But the survey also offers insights and delves into issues that the other polls didn’t.

For one thing, the survey contains some more potentially bad news for Democrats, who are struggling to regain their footing after Hogan’s surprise victory last November. Not only are Hogan’s numbers sky-high; Baltimore city voters seem especially gloomy. That’s significant because the city is one of three reliable Democratic jurisdictions in the state, and voters who are unhappy may not turn out in the numbers that Democrats need to rebuild in 2016 and 2018.

Several prominent Democrats have less than stellar job approval numbers – especially in the city.

The poll also contains an early trial heat for the 2018 Democratic primary for governor.

The survey of 501 Maryland voters, conducted Sept. 21-27 by a leading national Democratic polling firm, had a 4.4-point margin of error.

But margin of error is irrelevant when it comes to measuring Hogan’s popularity. Sixty-two percent of the survey respondents viewed Hogan favorably compared to 15 percent who didn’t. Sixteen percent of the poll respondents were neutral, while the rest offered no opinion or said they hadn’t heard of him.

But voters don’t just like Hogan personally; 64 percent approved of the job he is doing, compared to 32 percent who didn’t.

Hogan’s support is pretty much across the board. His approval rating is highest in the exurbs of Baltimore, where it stands at 82 percent. It’s 73 percent in rural areas of Western Maryland and the Eastern Shore, 70 percent in Howard and Anne Arundel counties, and 66 percent in Baltimore County. Even in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties and in Baltimore city, the three jurisdictions that Democrats rely on in statewide elections, it’s fairly high: 58 percent, 53 percent and 54 percent, respectively. Forty-five percent of Democrats viewed Hogan favorably, compared to just 22 percent who didn’t.

In July 2014, Hogan had a 26 percent favorable rating and a 15 percent unfavorable rating – meaning he is enjoying a 36-point swing in voter approval since then.

Hogan’s standing may also be fueling voter optimism: 56 percent of Maryland voters said they believe the state is headed in the right direction, compared with 34 percent who don’t. That’s a significant change from 14 months earlier, when the right track-wrong track numbers were 37 percent and 51 percent, respectively – the same 36-point swing that’s evident in Hogan’s favorability ratings.

Again, the good vibrations are being felt almost everywhere in the state. With one exception, voters in every region said the state was headed in the right direction – from a 12-point margin saying so in Prince George’s County to a 35-point margin who said so in the Baltimore exurbs.

But in Baltimore city, voters are feeling considerably less optimistic. Only 40 percent of the poll respondents in the city said the state is heading in the right direction, compared with 53 percent who said it isn’t.

So-So Numbers for Democrats

As Hogan rides high in the polls, the Maryland General Assembly – whose Democratic members are trying to serve as a counterpoint to the Republican governor – has low ratings. Just 27 percent of voters had a positive view of the legislature’s performance – compared to 63 percent who had a negative opinion. Even among Democrats, the positive to negative numbers were 30 percent and 60 percent. That’s not quite congressional-level disapproval ratings, but it’s uncomfortably close for state lawmakers.

Voters’ opinions of several prominent Democratic politicians seemed to vary. President Obama was viewed favorably by 57 percent of Marylanders, compared to 37 percent who viewed him unfavorably. That’s an improvement from July 2014, when his favorable-unfavorable numbers were 49 percent and 39 percent. Obama’s job approval ratings were 51 percent positive, 49 percent negative – hardly stellar, but better than they are in nationwide surveys.

Attorney General Brian Frosh (D), who took office in January, does not appear to be widely known. He had a 15 percent favorability rating and a 13 percent unfavorable rating. But Frosh’s job approval rating was not great: 27 percent of the poll respondents approved of the job he is doing, compared to 37 percent who did not.

Reps. Donna Edwards (D) and Chris Van Hollen (D), who are competing for the right to replace retiring Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D), both had middling poll numbers. Edwards was viewed favorably by 23 percent of poll respondents and unfavorably by 19 percent. Only 49 percent of those surveyed could identify her.

Edwards’ highest numbers were on her home turf, Prince George’s County, where she had a 58 percent-9 percent favorable-unfavorable rating. But if she’s hoping to make up ground in the state’s other majority-black jurisdiction, Baltimore city, she’s got some work to do. Her numbers there are 10 percent favorable, 21 percent unfavorable.

Van Hollen was viewed favorably by 27 percent statewide and unfavorably by 20 percent. He had 10 percent greater name recognition than Edwards.

Van Hollen’s best numbers were in his home territory, Montgomery County – 53 percent favorable, 21 percent unfavorable. In Baltimore city, his numbers were 13 percent favorable, 16 percent unfavorable.

The poll did not test Van Hollen and Edwards against each other in the Democratic primary. But it did test them in a hypothetical general election against Chrys Kefalas, the attorney who is competing for the Republican Senate nomination.

Van Hollen led Kefalas 48 percent to 29 percent, with 23 percent undecided. Edwards led Kefalas 45 percent to 30 percent, with 25 percent undecided.

The Franchot Factor

State Comptroller Peter Franchot had the strongest across-the-board numbers for Maryland Democrats tested in last month’s poll. He was viewed favorably by 34 percent of those surveyed and unfavorably by 13 percent. When it came to job approval, Franchot had a 48 percent positive rating and a 30 percent negative rating.

Franchot’s job approval rating was highest in Baltimore County, where he has camped out since taking office in 2007 – 61 percent positive, 27 percent negative. Ironically, it was lowest in his home base of Montgomery County – 40 percent positive, 24 percent negative. In Baltimore city, 45 percent of voters had a positive view of Franchot’s job performance, while 52 percent had a negative view.

Like his two most recent predecessors, William Donald Schaefer and Louis Goldstein, the media-savvy Franchot seems to have built a brand that is impervious to conventional partisan considerations. His approval ratings were about equal among Democrats, Republicans and non-affiliated voters. He is clearly benefiting from his decision to ally himself with the popular Republican governor as well.

That strength translated in a hypothetical 2018 Democratic primary for governor. A subset of 255 Democrats was queried about the 2018 race, and while an exact margin of error was not available, it is considerably higher than the 4.4-point margin for the overall poll.

Franchot finished on top in the poll, with 25 percent, compared to 14 percent for Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker, 10 percent for Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, 6 percent for Congressman John Delaney, and 5 percent for U.S. Labor Secretary Tom Perez.

Franchot led in every region in the poll but one – Prince George’s, where he trailed Baker 42 percent to 14 percent. In Baltimore County, Franchot tied for first with his nemesis, Kamenetz. Each got 29 percent of the vote.

It must be pointed out, however, that unlike these other Democrats, Franchot is highly unlikely to run for governor in 2018 – unless his friend Larry Hogan steps aside.

Josh Kurtz is editor of Environment & Energy Daily, a Capitol Hill publication. He can be reached at . Follow him on Twitter -- @joshkurtznews

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Josh Kurtz has been writing about Maryland politics since late 1995. Louie Goldstein, William Donald Schaefer and Pete Rawlings were alive, but the Intercounty Connector, as far as anyone could tell, was dead.


But some things never change: Mike Miller is still in charge of the Senate. Gerry Evans and Bruce Bereano are among the top-earning lobbyists in Annapolis. Steny Hoyer is still waiting for Nancy Pelosi to disappear. And Maryland Republicans are still struggling to be relevant.


The media landscape in Maryland has changed a lot, and Kurtz is happy to write weekly for Center Maryland. He's been writing a column for the website since it launched in January 2010.


In his "real" job, Kurtz is editor of Environment & Energy Daily down on Capitol Hill. But he'll always find Maryland politics more fascinating.


Kurtz grew up in New York City and attended public schools there. He has a BA in History from the University of Wisconsin and an MS in Journalism from Columbia University. He's married with two daughters and lives in Takoma Park, Md. He hopes you'll drop him a line, or maybe go out for a meal with him, because he's always hungry -- for political gossip.