Obama earns 55% approval in Md.

A new poll shows that national and state Democratic leaders are well regarded in Maryland, even as voters are split on progressive initiatives such as same-sex marriage and discounted in-state tuition for illegal immigrants.

The poll, by Gonzales Research & Marketing Strategies, shows that President Barack Obama's approval rating is inching up in the state, with 55 percent of respondents saying he's doing a good job. That figure is up from 49 percent in September. The number is still well below the 80 percent favorable rating he received during his first month in the White House.

U.S. Sen. Benjamin Cardin appears to be in good shape for his primary fight against state Sen. C. Anthony Muse. The incumbent has a 68 percent approval rating among Democrats.

Gov. Martin O'Malley's approval rating was at 53 percent among all voters, down slightly from last year after his re-election. He has strong support from African-American voters and women.

While the economy is still the top issue, its dominance is slipping slightly. Forty-nine percent called it their most pressing concern, the first time in two years that it was under 50 percent, according to the pollster. Education takes second place, with 13 percent naming it as their biggest interest.

Forty-nine percent favor allowing gay nuptials, and 47 percent oppose it. O'Malley is expected to introduce a bill legalizing gay marriage next week. Should it pass in the General Assembly, most believe it will be petitioned to referendum and put to the voters on the November ballot.

Gonzales queried 808 registered voters from Jan. 9 through Jan. 15. The poll has a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.