Republican Gov. Larry Hogan remains deeply popular in Democratic Maryland, and his job approval rating appears untouched by national political controversy, a new poll has found.
Hogan's job approval ratings dipped in the new Goucher Poll released Monday, but pollster Mileah Kromer said the decline since September is cyclical and appears unrelated to Democrats' repeated attempts to tie Hogan to Republican President Donald J. Trump.
"The governor remains largely unaffected by national politics," said Kromer, director of the Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center at Goucher, which conducted the poll. "He continues to earn high approval ratings and the majority of Maryland voters are at least leaning toward giving Governor Hogan another term in office."
The poll found 63 percent of Marylanders approve of the job Hogan is doing, down seven percentage points from the college's last poll. Fifty-seven percent said they would either definitely re-elect him in 2018 or were leaning toward voting for him. The poll has 3.5-point margin of error.
The Goucher poll has been conducted five times since Hogan took office in January 2015; this is the first time his job approval rating has declined.
Hogan has been under pressure from Democrats and a few public protests to take a position on Trump's actions and agenda. He has declined to do so, saying he is focused on Maryland and should not weigh in on national politics. The poll found 44 percent of people thought Hogan spent "the right amount of time" addressing national issues, and about 30 percent found he did not spend enough.
But the differences do not detract from Hogan's approval rating. Additionally, 62 percent of surveyed residents said the state was moving in the right direction.
Trump, by contrast, has support from 29 percent of Maryland residents.
"There's very little evidence that a 'Trump effect' is having any bearing," Kromer said. "People don't expect the governor of a state to be that involved in national politics."
Kromer said the 7-percentage point decline from Hogan's all-time high job approval rating of 70 percent in September can be attributed to a normal decline that governors experience while the General Assembly is in session and they share the public stage with lawmakers.
The Democratic field to challenge Hogan next November is not set. Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz and Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker have said they're considering running for governor, but neither has formally launched a campaign.
Hogan is dramatically more popular among Republicans and independents than with Democrats, the poll found. Ninety-one percent of Republicans and 61 percent of independents approve of the job Hogan is doing, while 52 percent of Democrats shared that view.
Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans in Maryland by a two-to-one margin. Independents make up the smallest group of registered voters.
The Goucher Poll also found:
•A majority of people don't believe Baltimore City is the economic engine of the state. Despite being home to several major institutions and companies and the repeated refrain by politicians that Baltimore drives the state's economy, 58 percent of state residents say they don't believe the city is Maryland's economic engine. "This is just a perception," Kromer said, adding that the city has "a serious image problem."
• Nearly two-thirds of residents — 60 percent — support raising the state's minimum wage to $15 an hour.
•At least 80 percent of state residents support mandating paid sick time for workers at companies with 15 employees or more. Such a proposal is currently advancing in the General Assembly.
•The vast majority of residents — 70 percent — prefer Maryland's congressional and legislative districts be drawn by an independent commission, rather than by the state's elected officials. Hogan has twice proposed legislation creating such a commission, but so far it has not advanced in the General Assembly.
•Fifty-eight percent of Maryland residents support legalizing marijuana for recreational use. Two proposals to legalize and tax the drug like alcohol will be considered by the legislature next month.
•There's clear division on how Maryland residents think the billions flowing into the state's transportation program should be spent. Fifty-eight percent said the government should focus on roads and bridges, while 35 percent say it should focus on public transit.
•Despite record funding on education, 66 percent of Maryland residents think the state funds "too little" on public schools.