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O’Malley approval dips in latest Post poll

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About half of Maryland voters say they approve of the job Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) is doing, his lowest rating in a Washington Post poll since taking office.

In the new Post poll, 49 percent of registered voters approve of O’Malley’s job performance, while 41 percent disapprove. Nine percent have no opinion.

In previous Post polls, O’Malley’s approval has hovered in the low- to mid-50s in heavily Democratic Maryland.

O’Malley, who took office in 2007, is term-limited and won’t face Maryland voters again before leaving office. But the dip in his rating comes at a time when O’Malley is widely believed to be angling to run for national office in 2016.

During the past year, O’Malley has traveled the country as chairman of the Democratic Governors Association and become a regular on the national Sunday talk show circuit.

Back home, he has championed some controversial issues, including same-sex marriage, higher taxes for transportation projects and expanded casino gambling.

The Post poll suggests that O’Malley has not yet convinced Maryland voters that he is ready for the Oval Office.

In the poll, 22 percent of registered voters say O’Malley would make a good president, while 62 percent say he would not. Sixteen percent have no opinion.

Just 32 percent of self-identified Democrats and 41 percent of those who approve of O’Malley’s performance as governor think he would make a good president. Republicans and those who disapprove of O’Malley are united in their belief that he is ill-suited for the Oval Office.

While ratings of O’Malley are at a low point, assessments of Maryland’s economy are improving, if still lukewarm.

Fifty-two percent rate Maryland’s economy as “good” or “excellent,” up slightly from 48 percent in January and 45 percent in 2010. Slightly fewer voters in the poll, 47 percent, rate it as “not so good” or “poor.”

Meanwhile, 48 percent say the state is generally going in the “right direction,” while 44 percent say it is on the “wrong track.” The outlook is little changed from January, but vastly improved from 2008, when more than six in 10 thought the state was off on the wrong track.

O’Malley’s 49 percent job approval rating is significantly lower than that of President Obama, who draws the approval of 61 percent of voters in the latest Post poll.

O’Malley’s standing is also lower than that of former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) in a Post poll in late 2006, shortly before O’Malley defeated him. At the time, Ehrlich’s approval rating was 55 percent among likely voters.

By contrast, only 37 percent of likely voters approved of the performance of former governor Parris N. Glendening (D) in 2002, shortly before he left office.

(O’Malley’s current approval rating is 49 percent among both registered voters and likely general election voters.)

Among all registered voters, O’Malley, who has two years left in office, fares better among women than men (53 percent approval vs. 45 percent), better among blacks than whites (69 percent vs. 37 percent) and far better among Democrats than Republicans (66 percent vs. 17 percent).

The Post did not poll in Maryland in the immediate aftermath of a special session in late 2007 during which O’Malley supported several tax increases. Other polls have shown that as the low point in his approval rating.

In October 2008, 53 percent of registered voters approved of O’Malley’s performance.

The latest post poll was conducted by telephone Oct. 11 to 15 among a random sample of 1,106 Maryland adults. Interviews were conducted on landline and cellular telephones and in English and Spanish.

The samples of 934 registered voters and 843 likely voters each have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus four percentage points.

© The Washington Post Company