Strong majorities of Marylanders favor some of the most liberal proposals pending in the General Assembly, according to a Goucher College poll released Monday that also showed a majority of residents think race relations in the state have worsened in recent years.
About two-thirds of respondents said they support raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour and increasing the tobacco purchasing age to 21; more than 6 in 10 are in favor of banning Styrofoam products and allowing physicians to prescribe lethal drugs to terminally ill patients who want to end their lives. A strong majority — 57 percent — back legalizing marijuana for recreational use.
The results show the continued liberal leanings of the population in Maryland, where Democratic registered voters outnumber Republicans more than 2 to 1 and the November midterms saw a wave of liberal victories even as popular Republican Gov. Larry Hogan easily won a second term.
The Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center at Goucher College interviewed a random sampling of 808 Marylanders for the survey. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.4 percent.
The poll found that nearly four years after Freddie Gray’s death in police custody set off protests and riots in poor, black neighborhoods in Baltimore, a majority of black and white Marylanders say race relations have deteriorated and racism is a “big problem” in the state. Just 18 percent of black residents said they believe people of all races are treated equally by police in their communities, compared with 47 percent of white residents.
The bill to increase the minimum wage from $10.10 an hour to $15 an hour is expected to be a major focus of the legislative session in Annapolis, which began Jan. 9 and runs through early April.
Business groups such as the Maryland Restaurant Association argue a wage hike will lead to job losses. But advocates, buoyed by a growing embrace of the $15 wage by Democratic leaders across the country, say the legislation could pass this year and are pushing for a “clean bill” that includes all classes of workers.
“People are hurting,” said bill sponsor Del. Diana M. Fennell (D-Prince George’s), who said she has many constituents who cannot afford to meet basic needs through their low-wage jobs. “I think leadership recognized that it was time.”
Bills to raise the age for buying tobacco, allow the terminally ill to end their lives and ban polystyrene foam products used in food service also are being pushed hard in the General Assembly.
Lawmakers are debating whether to place the question of legalizing recreational use of marijuana on the ballot in the next election or move forward with legislation to regulate the industry. More than a third of Marylanders — 37 percent — said they oppose legalization.
At a time when the legislature is weighing potentially significant increases in funding for schools, nearly two-thirds of poll respondents said Maryland spends too little on public education, while about a quarter said the state is spending the right amount. Seven percent said the state is spending too much on schools.