Rep. Donna F. Edwards talks with people at Easton Market Square in Easton, Md., Aug. 13. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

A new poll finds voters still split in Maryland’s Democratic Senate primary, eight weeks before the election and as Rep. Donna F. Edwards (D-Md.) takes her first step toward airing her own television ads.

The Gonzales Research & Marketing Strategies survey, taken Feb. 29 to March 4, found Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) leading Edwards among likely primary voters by a statistically insignificant 42 percent to 41 percent.

It is the third poll released this year that shows the two candidates essentially tied. The last time Gonzales Research released a poll, in January, Van Hollen led Edwards by a similar 38 to 36 percent. The difference: A quarter of likely Democratic voters were undecided in January. Now, only 15 percent have yet to make up their minds.

Despite their highly similar records and views, Edwards and Van Hollen are winning very different voters.

She does far better with African Americans, while he wins whites by similar margins. Those differences are reflected in the survey’s geographic breakdown: Although those sample sizes are small and therefore have a high margin of error, they show strong support for Edwards in the majority-black areas of Baltimore City and Prince George’s County and favor Van Hollen by considerable margins in the Baltimore suburbs, Montgomery County and the rest of the state.

“Van Hollen’s path to victory lies in winning his regions of supremacy with about two-thirds of the vote to offset Edwards’s depth with African American voters,” pollster Patrick Gonzales said in a statement.

For Edwards, the task will be to turn out her voters. The poll sample is 43 percent African American; in the 2008 presidential primary, the electorate was 37 percent African American.

Edwards, who has struggled financially throughout the race, may finally have the funds to air television ads in pursuit of that goal. Her campaign has reserved time in Baltimore for the week before the April 26 primary, according to documents filed with the Federal Communications Commission.

However, the campaign could decide to change or pull the commitment before the ads are set to air. The initial buy is small: $22,000 for ads that would run on the news channel WBAL.

Until now, Edwards has relied on a super PAC run by the Democratic women’s group Emily’s List to make her case to voters. The group spent $1 million on ads in the Baltimore area this past fall, and has launched a $400,000 campaign that is airing in both Baltimore and the far more expensive D.C. market. On Tuesday, Emily’s List announced that it would spend an additional ­$1 million to continue the advertising.

Van Hollen’s campaign, which has spent less on television ads in the race than Emily’s List, has accused the group of “trying to buy a U.S. Senate seat.”

Edwards had just under $300,000 in the bank at the end of last year, less than one-tenth of the $3.6 million that Van Hollen reported.