A high percentage of Marylanders believe Gov. Larry Hogan has adequately distanced himself from President Trump, according to a new poll that also shows the state leader with a strong approval rating despite Democratic efforts to tie the two Republicans together.
The Goucher College survey, however, does not contain only good news for Hogan. The governor's approval rating remains nearly 10 points below the astronomical 71 percent recorded in polls one year ago. And the percentage of Marylanders who say they are committed or likely to vote for him in 2018 has fallen six percentage points since February.
Trump is deeply unpopular in the state, with 71 percent of Marylanders in the survey saying they disapprove or strongly disapprove of the job the president is doing. Twenty-five percent said they approve or strongly approve of his work.
Forty-three percent of respondents said Hogan has distanced himself from Trump "about the right amount," while 27 percent said the governor has done "too little" and 11 percent said he has done "too much."
Sixty-two percent of Marylanders approve of the job Hogan is doing, about even with his 63 percent approval rating in a February 2017 Goucher survey but eight points below his 70 percent approval rating in the organization's September 2016 poll.
Sixteen percent of respondents in the new poll said they disapprove or strongly disapprove of the job Hogan is doing, while 20 percent said they don't know and 1 percent declined to answer the question.
Fifty-one percent said they will definitely vote or are leaning toward voting for Hogan in 2018, including 35 percent of registered Democrats, 59 percent of independents and 83 percent of Republicans. Forty-two percent said they were considering or would definitely vote for someone other than Hogan, including 57 percent of registered Democrats, 30 percent of independents and 16 percent of Republicans.
In February, 57 percent of respondents said they were at least leaning toward voting for Hogan. Hogan's reelection support dropped nine points among independents, five points among Republicans and two points among Democrats.
Hogan has angered some GOP voters by criticizing certain Trump administration policies and ordering the removal of a statue of Roger B. Taney, the chief justice of the United States and slavery supporter who wrote the Dred Scott decision in 1857. But Todd Eberly, a political science professor at St. Mary's College, said Republican discontent over such decisions is unlikely to carry over to the general election.
"Some Republicans may be angry, but they know there's a huge difference between Hogan and anyone the Democrats nominate," he said. "It's easy to win your own people back."
The poll also found a dip in the percentage of Marylanders who say the state is heading in the right direction: 55 percent, compared with 62 percent in February. Thirty-one percent said the state is on the wrong track, compared with 22 percent in February.
Mileah Kromer, a Goucher College political science professor who directed the polling team, attributed Hogan's high approval rating to his "ability to stay on a message that people care about" and his focus on jobs and the economy, which 28 percent of Maryland residents say is their top priority. Fifty-seven percent said they have a mostly positive view of the state's economic situation, compared with 33 percent who said they have a mostly negative view.
Education ranked as the second-highest priority for Marylanders, with 21 percent identifying that as their top issue, followed by taxes (12 percent), health care (12 percent), racial and social justice (11 percent), the environment (7 percent), and transportation and infrastructure (5 percent).
The poll questioned 671 Maryland adults and was conducted between Sept. 14 and 17. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.8 percentage points.