Younger voters — those under 35 — are among the strongest supporters of the measure, the poll found. But they are also a group known for low voter turnout, Raabe noted.
The O'Malley-backed gambling expansion plan has brought Marylanders of different political views together — in opposition. Likely Democratic voters say they oppose the measure by a narrow margin, while independents and Republicans are strongly against it. Weekly churchgoers are particularly hostile to the idea, rejecting it by 67 percent to 27 percent.
The chief antagonists in the high-stakes fight have together spent more than $65 million. MGM Resorts International and its allies have spent more than $32 million to persuade voters to approve a Prince George's County casino and allow table games such as baccarat and blackjack. Penn National Gaming, fearing that an MGM-operated casino at National Harbor would cut into its lucrative casino business at Charles Town, W.Va., has spent more than $33 million to defeat the measure.
Three-quarters of the voters surveyed said they either had not seen the ads or had not been swayed by them. Raabe cautioned that some voters who believe they haven't been persuaded by ads have nevertheless absorbed their messages.
"Some of these people are not owning up to the fact they are influenced by this," he said.
Yet with spending nearly even, neither side has moved the numbers much.
"There's so much advertising on both sides, they tend to drown each other out," Raabe said. "It's a total wash."
With Question 7 still running behind, a stalemate favors Penn National. Raabe said that company's message — that the gambling revenue promised for education would not actually go to Maryland schools — strikes a chord that resonates in focus groups he's seen.
"Voters are generally very skeptical and frustrated with public officials in terms of how officials keep their promises," he said. "The reason Penn National's advertising is successful is that they've tapped that vein in the electorate."
Kirsten Mackin, 44, a Democrat from Baltimore, has moved from undecided on the gambling question last month to leaning against it.
"I'm not against gambling. I'm not against table games, but I'm more against the way this bill was written," she said.
But Robert Nowlin Sr., 73, a Baltimore Democrat, believes strongly that expanded gambling should be approved. He knows opponents say the money would never reach the schools but says it's up to voters to be vigilant.
"I feel that it's up to us to get stronger on it and to see that the money does go where it belongs," he said.
Raabe said there are signs that proponents' most recent ads might be winning some support for the measure. Voters who decided in the past week broke in favor of gambling expansion, 55 percent to 45 percent. But he said that shift might be too little and too late.
"It's another one of those 'who knows?' questions," he said. "I think the opposition is pretty firm on this issue."
The Dream Act
The electorate overall is evenly split on the Dream Act, according to the poll, but there are sharp differences among demographic groups.
The measure receives significantly stronger support in the Washington suburbs than in the Baltimore region.
In Montgomery and Prince George's counties, Question 4 is favored by a margin of 57 percent to 34 percent; in greater Baltimore, despite strong support in the city, the measure trails, with 45 percent for and 49 percent against. The Dream Act is least popular in rural parts of the state, where opponents outnumber supporters by double-digit margins. Most black voters support the law; most Republicans don't.