A Tale of Two GOPs in Latest Goucher Poll

By Josh Kurtz

Gov. Larry Hogan (R) remains broadly popular, according to a newly-released poll – even as President Trump’s numbers in Maryland are an upside-down mirror image of the governor’s. And Marylanders dislike the GOP-led Congress even more than they disapprove of Trump.

In this era of non-stop political turmoil at the national level, a plurality of Maryland voters believes Hogan, who is seen as a political moderate, represents the future of the Republican Party.

But the survey also carries some potential peril for the governor. Hogan’s re-election numbers – voters who say they would definitely vote for his re-election or are leaning toward doing so – do not correspond to his general popularity and are down from a previous poll. And a greater percentage of voters believes the state is on the wrong track than they did seven months ago.

The results come from the latest Goucher Poll, conducted under the auspices of the Sarah T. Hughes Politics Center at Goucher College. The poll of 671 Maryland adults was taken Sept. 14-17 and had a 3.8-point margin of error.

Hogan’s approval rating remains at a level that most elected officials would envy: 62 percent of the survey respondents either approved or strongly approved of the job Hogan is doing. Just 16 percent disapproved or strongly disapproved.

That’s consistent with the last Goucher survey, in February, when the governor had a 63 percent to 17 percent approval-to-disapproval rating. His high-water mark in the Goucher Poll was in September 2016, when 70 percent of voters said they approved of the job he’s doing as governor.

Hogan’s popularity cut across partisan lines. Even 59 percent of Democrats surveyed said they approved of the job he is doing, compared to 22 percent who said they did not. Hogan’s approval rating was at 82 percent for Republicans and at 72 percent for independents.

“Governor Larry Hogan has now maintained his 60-plus approval rating since February 2016,” said Mileah Kromer, director of the Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center. “His more recent public distancing from President Donald Trump’s policies on issues like healthcare and immigration have likely helped to maintain his approval ratings among Democrats and Independents—both of which he’ll need to do well with if he wants to become the second two-term Republican governor in Maryland’s history.”

Asked where they would place Hogan on the ideological spectrum, 31 percent of voters said he was conservative, 47 percent identified him as moderate, and 7 percent labeled him liberal. Fifteen percent said they did not know or refused to answer.

And asked whether Hogan represents the past or the future of the GOP, 44 percent said the future and 22 percent said the past, while 7 percent said neither and 2 percent said both. The rest of the survey respondents did not know or refused to answer.

But despite these upbeat numbers for the Republican governor, some survey questions might prove a little more troubling for his supporters.

Hogan’s “re-elect” numbers – those who were definitely or leaning toward supporting his re-election – did not match his popularity figures. Twenty-three percent of voters said they would definitely support his re-election; 28 percent said they were leaning toward voting for Hogan but would consider another candidate. Twenty-one percent said they were leaning toward another candidate but would still consider Hogan, and the same number said they would definitely vote for another candidate.

These are far from terrible numbers for Hogan – and Republican strategists believe they will solidify or improve once there is a Democratic nominee instead of a hypothetical opponent. But those numbers also cheer Democrats, who believe that despite Hogan’s personal popularity, they have a case to make against the incumbent in a Democratic state.

Still, they’ll have their work cut out for them: even 35 percent of Democrats said they would definitely or lean toward voting for Hogan.

Even so, Hogan’s re-elect numbers are down in this poll compared to the February 2017 Goucher survey. In that poll, 28 percent of respondents said they would definitely re-elect Hogan, 29 percent said they were leaning toward re-electing him, 18 percent said they were leaning toward another candidate, and 15 percent said they would definitely vote for someone else.

Another key number is the “right direction/wrong track” question that pollsters usually ask. In the latest survey, 33 percent of respondents said the state is on the wrong track, while 55 percent said it is going in the right direction. That’s a healthy number – but represents a decline from both February 2017, when the “right direction/wrong track” numbers were 62 percent and 22 percent, and September 2016, when they were 65 percent and 19 percent.

Are those numbers a reflection of Hogan’s leadership or political turmoil at the national level?

President Trump and national Republicans are highly unpopular in Maryland.

Only 25 percent of Marylanders approved of the job President Trump is doing, compared to 71 percent who disapproved. In February, less than a month into his presidency, 29 percent approved and 64 percent disapproved.

Asked about Hogan’s ability to distance himself from the unpopular president, 27 percent of survey respondents said he has distanced himself too little, 11 percent said too much, and 43 percent said about the right amount.

Most stunning is the approval rating of Congress. Just 8 percent of Marylanders approved of the job Congress is doing, while 86 percent disapproved. In February, 21 percent approved and 72 percent disapproved.

What’s clear from all this: Hogan remains very popular. But national Republicans aren’t in Maryland. The political terrain for Hogan is treacherous. How he responds – and how the Democrats do – will help determine whether Hogan earns a second term.

Trump and national Republicans generally remain albatrosses around the governor’s neck. But the Democrats will need to do more than merely attempt to tie Hogan to the president.

To see the poll, click here. Goucher will be releasing results of a hypothetical Democratic primary on Tuesday.

2 comments

  • These numbers show that Trump is not going to stick to Gov. Hogan. If Democrats want to win back the governor’s office in 2018, they need to run against Hogan, not Trump. When Mayor O’Malley ran against sitting Republican Governor Ehrlich in 2006, he didn’t focus on the very unpopular President George W. Bush. Rather his campaign themes centered on fighting for middle class families (recall those ads of O’Malley sitting around a kitchen table) and presenting himself as someone with innovative ideas (Citistat) that saved Baltimore from the brink. The ads O’Malley ran against Gov. Ehrlich slammed him for raising fees, the property tax, and college tuition, and blamed him for the BGE 72% utility rate hike.

    Governor Hogan has been rigid in refusing to raise any fees and has rolled back quite a few. Those fee cuts will likely starve state agencies of resources needed to do their jobs effectively, but the Governor just needs for things to hold together until Nov 2018. Until that time, he’ll just keep telling voters how much money he’s put back into their pockets. That’s not to say that Governor Hogan is invincible. The recent Goucher poll shows some cracks. Despite his insertion of the word transformative whenever rolling out a new effort, Governor Hogan has not been a man a big ideas and there is little evidence he’s been leading progress in Maryland. A successful Democratic challenger will need to show the Governor’s lack luster efforts and missed opportunities reversed the forward course in areas that need to be stronger for Maryland to compete in bringing more high paying jobs. Democrats need to start having that conversation with voters now.

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