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Voters unhappy with governor Poll shows 56% critical of his work, but approval growing


Maryland voters are generally unhappy with Gov. Parris N. Glendening's job performance, but not as displeased as they used to be.

Poll results released yesterday show Mr. Glendening is given a "good" or "excellent" rating by just 34 percent of voters across the state, while 56 percent see his performance as "fair" or "poor." The remaining 10 percent are undecided.

While those numbers are considered weak for any politician, they are an improvement from a March poll, which gave the governor a positive rating from 18 percent of voters and a negative review from 65 percent.

"He's bouncing back," said J. Bradford Coker, president of Mason-Dixon Political/Media Research Inc., which conducted the poll for The Sun and other news organizations. "The mid-30s aren't great, but it's still much better than 18 percent."

Mr. Glendening's poll results put him in the bottom third of the 30 governors Mr. Coker's firm has surveyed nationwide. By comparison, the most popular are Wisconsin's Tommy G. Thompson (76 percent favorable) and Oklahoma's Frank Keating percent).

William Donald Schaefer, Mr. Glendening's predecessor, never saw his favorable rating fall below 50 percent during his first term.

The poll, based on telephone interviews with 821 randomly selected registered voters across the state, showed President Clinton's approval numbers also are down from March, but he still is outscoring Mr. Glendening.

Forty-one percent of those surveyed give the president a favorable job performance, compared with 47 percent seven months ago.

Voter antipathy toward the governor is attributed partly to controversies he faced during his first two months in office. They included the disclosure of unusually generous pension benefits that Mr. Glendening, the former Prince George's County executive, and several top aides had secured for themselves in their county jobs.

Elected by one of the narrowest margins in state history, the governor began office with voter fraud allegations in the air. Then came the revelation that a Baltimore businessman paid $95,000 of his legal expenses from the court challenge filed by Republican Ellen R. Sauerbrey. He hasn't been helped by a state economy that flags behind the nation's, or by the resignation of two Cabinet secretaries and a Cabinet nominee.

James G. Gimpel, an assistant professor of government and politics at the University of Maryland College Park, said Mr. Glendening's improved rating largely comes from voters' fading recollection of the early controversies.

Mr. Glendening, while noting his popularity was harmed by a "divisive" election and "some early mistakes," said the poll reflects a "significant change for the better."

"I think the big test comes up in the next several months as we address huge financial challenges as the result of a reduction in federal aid," the governor said. "We are going to lose a large number of jobs, and the question is how well we can manage that and promote the economy."

Christopher R. West, executive director of the Maryland Republican Party, said the governor's ratings ultimately will be tied to the state of the economy. "Voters may never love him," he said. "The question for 1998 is whether voters respect him, and VTC that will be based on the economy."

The Mason-Dixon poll was conducted Oct. 11 through Saturday. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

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