A new poll finds Maryland voters almost evenly divided over the legalization of same-sex marriage and over allowing children of illegal immigrants to receive in-state college tuition rates — two issues that could be decided at the ballot box next year.

Meanwhile, President Obama’s job approval has “dipped considerably,” while Gov. Martin O’Malley’s rating remains “fairly solid,” and Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin appears well-positioned for re-election next year, according to the poll by Gonzales Research & Marketing Strategies.

The poll comes as both sides gear up for another legislative fight next year over same-sex marriage, this time with O’Malley (D) planning to sponsor the bill.

The Gonzales poll found 48 percent of Marylanders who vote regularly favor a law allowing same-sex marriages, while 49 percent of that population are against allowing same-sex marriages.

There is a notable difference based on race. Fifty-one percent of white voters approve, compared to 41 percent of African-American voters. Meanwhile, 46 percent of white voters disapprove, compared to 59 percent of African Americans.

The opinion of voters could become particularly relevant if a same-sex marriage bill passes this session.

Opponents have vowed to take advantage of a provision in the state Constitution that allows citizens to petition just-passed laws to the ballot. With enough signatures, same-sex marriage would be subject to a statewide vote in November 2012.

A law passed this year allowing in-state college tuition rates for certain children of illegal immigrants has already been petitioned to the ballot.

The Gonzales poll found 47 percent of voters support the so-called Dream Act, while 51 percent are opposed.

Voters were asked whether they agree that “children of immigrants who are not in the state legally should be given the opportunity to receive Maryland in-state college tuition rates if they have graduated from a Maryland high school and their parents have filed Maryland tax returns for the past three years.”

The poll also found more voters approve of the way O’Malley is handling his job than the way Obama is handling his.

Voters in heavily Democratic Maryland are now almost evenly split on Obama, with 49 percent saying they approve of the job he is doing as president and 47 percent saying they disapprove.

That is a considerable slide since a January poll, which found 54 percent approved and 40 percent disapproved.

The poll found that 52 percent of Maryland voters approve of the job O’Malley is doing, while 40 percent disapprove — marks Gonzales said are “fairly solid.” O’Malley’s approval rating of 52 percent is higher in all but two of 11 previous Gonzales polls since the governor arrived in office in 2007.

The poll also showed that 63 percent of voters say they either will definitely vote for Cardin (D-Md.) next year or consider voting for him. More than one-third of Republicans even said they would consider voting for Cardin — “not the result a Republican hopeful for the office wants to see,” Gonzales noted.

The telephone poll of 805 registered voters who vote regularly was conducted Sept. 19 to Sept. 27. It was said to have a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.