NAACP President Benjamin Jealous, left, stands alongside Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley at a rally in support of repealing Maryland's death penalty in Annapolis. (Patrick Semansky/AP)

More Maryland voters support capital punishment than oppose it, according to a new poll.

The findings by Gonzales Research & Marketing Strategies come as the Maryland General Assembly prepares to debate a bill introduced by Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) to end executions in Maryland.

The poll found that 49 percent of Marylanders support the death penalty while 44 percent oppose it. Opposition has grown by 8 percentage points in the last two years.

More striking, Gonzales said, is the finding that 61 percent of voters say life without parole is an acceptable alternative to the death penalty, while only 33 percent say it is not.

The bill O’Malley has introduced would replace capital punishment with life in prison without parole. If passed by the legislature, voters could have the final say if opponents gather sufficient signatures to put the issue on the ballot.

The poll put O’Malley’s own approval rating at 54 percent.

Two other issues confronting the legislature — restrictions surrounding assault weapons and raising the gas tax — showed varying results.

The poll found 58 percent of Maryland voters would favor a law banning the sale of assault weapons, while 40 percent oppose one.

And while the vast majority of voters say it is important to maintain and improve Maryland’s transportation system, they are less eager to pay for it.

Only 26 percent say they favor a 10-cent increase in the state’s gas tax while 73 percent oppose it.

The poll of 801 registered voters who vote regularly was conducted between Jan. 15 and Jan. 21 by telephone. The results have a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points, according to Gonzales.