Gov. Larry Hogan remains highly popular in Maryland, according to a new poll, despite being a Republican in an overwhelmingly blue state in an election year when Democrats hope to capitalize on opposition to President Trump.
Sixty-nine percent of Marylanders approve of the way Hogan is handling his job, an increase from 61 percent in February, according to a Goucher College poll released Tuesday. It’s his highest approval rating in the Goucher poll since fall 2016.
He receives praise across party lines: from 65 percent of registered Democrats, 64 percent of independents and 81 percent of Republicans.
Hogan is vying to become the second GOP governor in 60 years to be reelected in Maryland, where registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans 2 to 1. He has tried hard to avoid a partisan label and has repeatedly distanced himself from Trump and Republicans in Congress.
So far, the strategy seems to have worked. Seventy percent of Marylanders disapprove of Trump, nearly the opposite of Hogan’s approval rating, according to the Goucher poll. But 47 percent of Marylanders polled say Hogan has distanced himself “about the right amount” from Trump. Twenty-seven percent say he’s distanced himself too little, and 9 percent say too much.
A 53 percent majority think the state is heading in the right direction; 28 percent say the state is on the wrong track.
“If I were Larry Hogan, I’d probably be doing somersaults,” Todd Eberly, a political scientist at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, said after looking at the poll results. “If there’s going to be a blue wave, I think Hogan is in the best position he could be in a Democratic state if you were going to withstand that wave.”
Mileah Kromer, director of the Goucher polling team, cautioned that there remain plenty of undecided voters and — with the wide-open Democratic gubernatorial primary still nine weeks away — a long road to November.
“What probably concerns them is the fact that approval isn’t necessarily the same thing as support for reelection,” Kromer said. “We’re really far out. It’s not like he can pack it in.”
If Hogan were pitted now against one of the contenders in June’s Democratic primary, between 44 and 47 percent of likely voters say they would choose Hogan, according to the poll. Between 22 and 27 percent of likely voters say they are undecided.
Hogan holds a 44 percent to 31 percent lead against Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III, the Democratic front-runner in other recent polls. He leads by an identical margin against former NAACP president Ben Jealous, who narrowly trailed Baker and former Michelle Obama policy aide Krishanti Vignarajah in this weekend’s Western Maryland Democratic straw poll .
A February Mason-Dixon poll found Hogan leading Baker by 15 points in a general-election matchup, while a Gonzalez poll released in January gave Hogan a 10-point advantage.
The governor performed well in the Goucher poll on the question of whether Marylanders trust him or Democratic leaders on several specific issues. Fifty-five percent of Maryland adults say they have more confidence in Hogan to deal with the state’s budget and finances, vs. 28 percent who had more confidence in Democrats. He is more trusted on crime (48 percent to 32 percent), taxes (47 percent to 35 percent), economic development (49 percent to 35 percent) and transportation and infrastructure (45 percent to 36 percent).
Democrats have a double-digit advantage only on the environment (47 percent to 34 percent). They have a narrower edge on education (44 percent to 37 percent).
The poll revealed age and gender gaps that show that it is crucial for Democrats to get millennials and women to the polls.
Hogan has a 24-point advantage over Baker among likely voters age 55 and older, a higher-turnout group in a nonpresidential election year, when fewer than half of voters typically cast ballots. He trails his top Democratic rivals by roughly 20 points among likely voters under 35. Hogan leads by about 2 to 1 among men, but is tied with the Democrats among women, who made up 54 percent of voters in the 2014 gubernatorial election, according to the Census Bureau.
The Goucher poll was conducted April 14-19 among a random sample of 617 residents of Maryland, including landline and cellphone respondents. Full results have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points. The margin of error was 4.6 points among the subset of 449 likely voters.