The assertion that Baltimore is “the economic engine of Maryland” is familiar enough in state politics to have become a cliche. It’s a phrase used by Democrats and Republicans alike to describe the state’s largest city, especially when appealing for votes in Baltimore.
Nevertheless, two-thirds of Marylanders beg to differ.
According to a Goucher Poll released Wednesday, 67 percent of Marylanders do not agree with the characterization, compared with 25 percent who do. The numbers represent a shift from last year, when a third of respondents agreed and 58 percent rejected the description.
The poll surveyed 800 Maryland adults from Feb. 12 to 17 and has a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.
The prevailing view reflects the decades-old shift in economic and political power from Baltimore, once a manufacturing powerhouse, to the Washington suburbs.
The belief that Baltimore’s economic engine has sputtered is not limited to the Washington area, however. While almost 80 percent in that region share that view, nearly 60 percent in Central Maryland also agree. Only 35 percent of respondents in the Baltimore region see the city as the state’s economic center.
Mileah Kromer, director of the Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center at Goucher College, said that’s a significant shift in one year.
“I have to wonder if the gap is caused by Baltimore’s losing Amazon,” said Kromer, referring to the city’s loss to Montgomery County as a contender for the company’s second headquarters.
Kromer also said recent news about crime and police corruption may have affected perceptions of the city.
“The news coming out of Baltimore hasn’t been great,” she said.
The poll shows another way in which Baltimore is viewed negatively by Marylanders.
Asked who should be held responsible for this winter’s problems of malfunctioning heating systems in city schools, 39 percent blamed mismanagement of funds by the Baltimore school system and another 14 percent blamed underfunding by City Hall. Only 24 percent blamed underfunding by Maryland government, even though the state is primarily responsible for financing Baltimore schools.
The majority view tracks the message delivered by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, who has laid blame for freezing classrooms at the feet of school system officials. But Kromer said that may not be the only factor. A recent article in The Baltimore Sun explaining how city school officials had to send money that could have been used for heating systems back to the state “really resonated with a lot of people,” she said.
The poll found that Marylanders approve of the job done by the Democratic-led Maryland General Assembly 42 percent to 34 percent — a much more positive result than the U.S. Congress typically receives in national surveys. While the legislature’s approval numbers are not as strong as Hogan's, they are relatively strong for a legislative body, Kromer said.
“It’s good news for the General Assembly certainly,” she said.
When asked about the idea of imposing term limits on legislators, a cause adopted by Hogan, three-quarters approve, with more than half wanting to restrict service to eight years. Only 19 percent want no limits.
The poll showed that the state’s heroin and opioid addiction crisis is hitting home for many Marylanders.
More Marylanders, 52 percent, said they know someone addicted to opioids than people who do not, 47 percent. More than 80 percent view opioids as a major problem and believe treatment is necessary to overcome addiction.