Gov. Larry Hogan continues to earn high marks from Marylanders, including for his outspoken disavowal of GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, according to a new Washington Post-University of Maryland poll. But Hogan’s party is viewed more negatively than it was a year ago in the heavily Democratic state, where Trump is overwhelmingly unpopular.
Hogan’s 71 percent approval rating — up five points since this spring and 10 points from a year ago — is a record for the first-term Republican, who continues to enjoy wide backing among the white Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents who were key to his surprise 2014 victory.
The Post-U-Md. poll finds that 75 percent of Marylanders approve of Hogan’s rejection of Trump, including 3 out of 4 political independents and more than 9 in 10 Democrats. Republicans are split on the question, with 43 percent approving and 47 percent disapproving of Hogan’s decision not to vote for or endorse his party’s nominee.
Dominic Dixon, 25, a registered Libertarian Party member who leans Democratic, said that he is a “big fan” of Hogan because “he gets stuff done” but that he would have “lost total respect” for the governor if he had backed Trump.
“Donald Trump is a joke,” said Dixon, 25, who lives in Baltimore County and plans to vote for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
The poll finds that 63 percent of Marylanders have an unfavorable impression of the Republican Party, a number that has climbed from 51 percent last fall. Democrats have a net positive image statewide, with 51 percent of residents seeing the party favorably and 37 percent unfavorably, similar to 2015.
Michael Hanmer, an associate professor at the University of Maryland and research director of its Center for American Politics and Citizenship, which co-sponsored the survey, said that by distancing himself from Trump, Hogan continued the theme of his 2014 campaign as an “outsider who was willing to stand for his own positions,” a stance, he said, that plays well in the blue state.
Hogan’s popularity has soared from 48 percent to 66 percent in the past year among Marylanders who have an unfavorable view of the Republican Party overall, the poll finds.
And while less than half of Republicans approve of Hogan’s refusal to support Trump, more than 6 in 10 say their party’s leaders should speak out against the real estate mogul when they disagree with him.
The issue has done little to damage Hogan’s reputation among fellow partisans, with nearly 9 in 10 Republicans approving of his performance as governor, little changed from a poll earlier this year.
Crystal Ellis, a Republican from Baltimore County who supports Hogan and Trump, said they are “apples and oranges; you can’t compare the two.” She said everyone has the right to their opinions, including Hogan in deciding not to vote for the GOP nominee.
Sandy Tyree, 67, a Democratic-leaning independent from Dundalk in Baltimore County, said she likes the way Hogan confronts problems and takes action, and she was impressed by his decision to shut down the troubled men’s facility at the Baltimore jail.
“Everybody ignored it; he shut it down,” Tyree said. “He caught my attention with that one action, and then he went through cancer treatment. I really respect that man.”
Tyree said she was a registered Republican until about 2000. Now, she says, because of Trump and others, she is “ashamed that I was ever associated with the Republican Party.”
But she said that Hogan is different from the rest of his party and that he has her support “until he screws up.”
The governor’s popularity does not appear to be helping the candidate he endorsed for Maryland’s open U.S. Senate seat, Del. Kathy Szeliga (R-Baltimore County). Szeliga, the House minority whip, trails the Democratic nominee, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D), by a 2-to-1 margin among likely voters, 58 to 29 percent.
Stella Rouse, an associate professor and director of U-Md.’s Center for American Politics and Citizenship, said Van Hollen is benefiting from his widespread name recognition, popularity and “the fact that he’s a Democrat” in a state where registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans by a 2-to-1 margin.
The poll finds evidence that a significant share of Republicans in Maryland have reservations about Trump. While 71 percent of likely Republican voters support Trump, over 1 in 6 support Clinton, compared with just 1 in 20 Democrats who cross party lines to support Trump. Eight percent of Republicans peel off to support Libertarian Gary Johnson, compared with 1 percent of Democrats.
Overall, Clinton has a lead over Trump, 63 percent to 27 percent, among likely voters, substantially larger than President Obama’s 26-point advantage over Republican Mitt Romney in Maryland four years ago.
Jeff Jordan, a 33-year-old Republican from Baltimore County, said he is considering voting for a third-party candidate, even though he would prefer to have a Republican president.
“I just can’t have that on my conscience, voting for [Clinton] or Trump,” he said.
Although Hogan is popular now and a clear favorite in a reelection bid, the poll shows that many of his fans are not committed to voting for him for a second term.
A 46 percent plurality of registered voters say they would support Hogan if he ran for reelection, a figure much lower than his job-approval rating. A significantly smaller 30 percent say they would favor whoever becomes the Democratic nominee, and 22 percent have no opinion.
Former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) held a 55 percent approval rating with likely voters just two weeks before losing his 2006 reelection bid to then-Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley (D).
Dale White, a Prince George’s County resident who usually votes Democratic, said she has been impressed with Hogan, “even though he is a Republican,” but would “prefer to vote for a Democrat” in 2018.
The poll finds that Hogan’s potential Democratic challengers are widely unknown across the state. More than 7 in 10 Maryland residents offer no opinion of Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker III, U.S. Rep. John Delaney and Baltimore County Executive Kevin B. Kamenetz, all considered possible Democratic gubernatorial candidates. More than 6 in 10 have no opinion of state Comptroller Peter Franchot, whose name has also been mentioned.
Kourosh Farshadfar, 51, of Gaithersburg noted that while he supports what Hogan has done so far, the gubernatorial election is still two years away.
“It depends who it is and how much Hogan has done for the state,” the Democratic-leaning independent said when asked whether he would support the Democratic nominee or knew any of the Democrats considering challenging Hogan. “At the end of the day, what he does speaks for him. But he has the upper hand; he’s the incumbent.”
The Washington Post-University of Maryland poll was conducted Sept. 27 to Sept. 30 among a random sample of 906 Maryland adults reached on cellular and landline phones, conducted in partnership with the university’s Center for American Politics and Citizenship. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points for overall results.
Josh Hicks and Emily Guskin contributed to this report.