Maryland residents see race relations in decline, poll says

Maryland residents are pessimistic about race relations, with a strong majority saying in a new poll that the situation has recently “gotten worse" in the state.

Sixty-one percent of people surveyed in a Goucher Poll released Thursday agreed there was a decline in race relations here.

Though people most feel there is a problem in the state, the poll found African Americans and whites hold very different perspectives on the pervasiveness of workplace discrimination, the extent of unfair policing practices, and the propriety of taking down Confederate monuments or letting white supremacists rally in public.

“Both African Americans and whites recognize that race relations in Maryland aren't as good as they've been in previous years,” said Mileah Kromer, director of the school’s Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center. “When you start to drill down into the details, like into policing and especially about Confederate monuments, you start to see a racial divide.”

The wide-ranging survey also found broad support for helping undocumented immigrants who entered the country as children and for building wind turbines off the coast of Ocean City, as well as strong confidence that Maryland’s government would competently respond to a natural disaster.

The poll of 671 Maryland adults, conducted Sept. 14-17, came just weeks after the high-profile confrontation between white supremacists and counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Va, where local officials wanted to take down a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. Similar controversial statues and monuments were also removed in Baltimore, Howard County and Annapolis.

Thirty-eight percent of white Maryland residents thought Confederate monuments here should be removed, while 70 percent of African-Americans wanted them to go.

Seventy-nine percent of African-Americans surveyed believed racial minorities faced discrimination at work, but only 55 percent of whites agreed.

Forty-eight percent of whites thought police treated people of all races fairly. Only 20 percent of African-Americans did.

Less than a third of African-Americans agreed that white supremacist groups should be allowed to hold rallies in public places in Maryland. Nearly half of whites agreed.

The poll has a 3.8 percentage-point margin of error.

The survey also found strong support in Maryland for immigrants brought to the country illegally as children, the so-called dreamers. Three quarters of respondents said they support a program approved by President Barack Obama in 2012 that deferred deportation and provided work permits for those immigrants.

President Donald Trump suspended the program this month but has indicated a willingness to work with Democrats on Capitol Hill to achieve a similar outcome through legislation.

In a state with the ninth-largest share of foreign-born residents in the nation, the poll found broad support among Marylanders for immigrants generally. Sixty-five percent of respondents said they believe Congress should create a path to citizenship for millions of immigrants in the country illegally.

Another 20 percent of state residents said Washington should grant legal resident status to undocumented immigrants, while 11 percent said those immigrants should be deported.

“Opinion has not changed,” Kromer said. “The majority of Marylanders continue to favor immigration policies focused on a pathway to citizenship or legal status rather than deportation.”

Amid a debate over a proposed wind farm off the coast of Ocean City, three quarters of respondents said seeing turbines on the horizon would “make no difference” to their decision to book a vacation there.

The $1.4 billion project, in the works for seven years, has drawn criticism from local officials concerned that the turbines would send beachgoers elsewhere.

Rep. Andy Harris, the Republican lawmaker who represents the Eastern Shore, has attempted to insert language in appropriations bills this year that would slow the project – if not kill it. Harris did not respond to a request for a comment about the poll’s results late Wednesday.

Eleven percent of respondents said that seeing the turbines would make them less likely to vacation in Ocean City and 12 percent said it would make them more likely to go there.

The proposed wind farm, under review by U.S. Department of Interior, would be built 17 miles offshore.

The poll also found that among Maryland residents:

  • 66 percent said they have confidence Maryland’s government could handle a natural disaster.
  • 69 percent believe the severity of recent storms were caused by climate change. About a quarter disagree.
  • 35 percent think climate change is part of a natural weather pattern. Two percent believe it doesn’t exist. And the majority, 59 percent, believe it is caused mostly by human activity.

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