Some findings of a Washington Post poll of Maryland residents were reported incorrectly in yesterday's editions. The poll indicated that 16 percent of the state's residents blame Maryland Attorney General Stephen H. Sachs a "great deal" for letting the state's savings and loan crisis become as serious as it did, while 19 percent blame Sachs a "fair amount."
Only 10 percent of Maryland's residents say they have been affected by the state's lingering savings and loan crisis, but an overwhelming majority view it as a major and continuing problem that should not be resolved by using tax dollars, according to a Washington Post poll.
The Post poll, which surveyed 1,414 state residents last week for their opinions on the thrift crisis, shows that the highly publicized savings and loan issue could have a significant impact in this fall's elections for state and federal offices.
The poll has a margin of error of 3 percentage points.
Gov. Harry Hughes, who has been struggling to put the thrift crisis behind him for 10 months, appears to suffer more political damage than any of the other Democratic candidates for statewide office. But the 188 members of the General Assembly collectively are blamed for causing it by even more residents than blame Hughes.
Blame most often was assigned to Jeffrey Levitt, the ousted former president of Old Court Savings & Loan Association. Old Court problems triggered the crisis.
Seventy-one percent of those responding in the Post poll said that the legislature bears either a "great deal" or a "fair amount" of the responsibility for "letting the savings and loan problem become as serious as it did."
Hughes, by contrast, is assigned some or much blame by 62 percent.
However, 51 percent disapprove of how Hughes has handled the crisis, compared with 28 percent who approve of the way he has managed it.
The poll indicates that Hughes' recent attempts to assure Marylanders that resolving the crisis will not be a burden to taxpayers is sound political strategy.
When asked whether they would support a solution to the crisis that would cost every Maryland adult $10, 66 percent of those surveyed opposed such an expenditure while 25 percent favored it. When the hypothetical cost was raised to $25 per adult, only 9 percent approved of such a solution, and the figure dropped to 4 percent when the cost was raised to $50 per adult.
The eventual cost of the savings and loan crisis will probably not be known for several years. Hughes has argued that through a combination of available insurance funds, sale of assets, and civil suits against thrift owners, Maryland eventually may suffer no financial losses. Others familiar with the industry, however, say that the ultimate cost to the state could reach many millions of dollars.
While about 10 percent of those polled said they were affected by the crisis, only 6 percent said they had suffered financial hardship as a result. Nonetheless, with $1 billion in depositors' accounts still frozen at four thrifts, the issue remains a major concern to Marylanders. Seventy-one percent said they have been following the savings and loan situation very or fairly closely.
Most respondents had strong feelings about who should be blamed for the crisis, assigning responsibility in varying amounts to everyone from the governor and the legislature to the savings and loans or to state and federal banking regulators.
State Attorney General Stephen H. Sachs, who is running for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination this fall, is assigned a great deal of blame by 33 percent of those surveyed and a fair amount of blame by 29 percent.
The thrift industry itself is assigned a great deal of blame by55 percent, and Levitt a great deal of blame by 68 percent. State banking regulators receive a great deal of blame by 52 percent of those surveyed.