With less than three months until the general election in November, Republican Gov. Larry Hogan has a sizable lead over Democratic challenger Ben Jealous, according to a new poll.
A survey conducted by Gonzales Research & Marketing Strategies from Aug. 1 through Aug. 8 showed Hogan leading Jealous by 16 percentage points, with 52 percent of respondents saying they would vote for the incumbent governor if the Nov. 6 election were held today.
About 36 percent of respondents said they would vote for Jealous, while 11 percent were undecided.
About 1 percent said they would vote for Libertarian candidate Shawn Quinn or Green Party candidate Ian Schlakman.
“Governor Hogan is still popular. People like the job he’s doing,” said Patrick E. Gonzales, who conducted the poll. “Jealous has yet to capture any real traction. Ben Jealous is going to have to do something to shake up that dynamic.”
Gonzales used both landlines and cell phones to conduct the poll of 831 registered voters in Maryland. The poll has a margin of error of 3.5 percent.
About 71 percent of those surveyed said they approve of the job Hogan is doing, while 21 percent disapprove, according to the poll. About 63 percent of Marylanders said they believe the state is on the right track, while 21 percent said it’s headed in the wrong direction.
Hogan leads on the Eastern Shore, 72 percent to 24 percent; Western Maryland, 71 to 21 percent; Baltimore County, 63 to 27 percent; and Anne Arundel County, 61 to 33 percent.
Jealous leads in Montgomery County, 60 percent to 25 percent; Prince George’s County, 46 to 33; and Baltimore City, 44 to 38.
“Something is happening in the city and Prince George’s County,” Gonzales said of Hogan’s poll results, which are considered strong for a Republican in those predominately African-American jurisdictions. “If he gets 33 percent in Prince George’s County on Election Day, he’ll get re-elected.”
Jealous is strongest “among liberal white voters,” Gonzales said.
Jealous campaign senior adviser Kevin Harris questioned the accuracy of the poll. Harris noted Gonzales’ poll during the Democratic primary showed Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker in the lead, when Jealous later surged to win 22 of 24 Maryland jurisdictions.
"Based on past precedent, these poorly designed public polls have never accurately predicted or captured the mood of Marylanders, as we saw from the primary," Harris said in a statement. "The truth is this is a competitive race which is why Republicans have spent more than a million dollars lying about Ben's record.”
Last week, Jealous campaign officials met with reporters in Annapolis and acknowledged they were trailing the GOP governor.
Democratic pollster Fred Yang predicted Jealous would trail in every poll up to election day.
Nevertheless, they laid out a strategy for how they plan to win the race by focusing on increasing turnout in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-to-1. Campaign officials say they are working to push more than 1 million Democratic voters to the polls.
The Jealous campaign also released the results of an internal poll conducted from July 10 to July 14 that showed Hogan leading Jealous in the race 49 percent to 40 percent.
That poll was taken before the Republican Governors Association began pounding Jealous with attack ads for a month — spending more than $1 million on spots targeting the former NAACP president.
Conducted amid that ad campaign, Gonzales’ poll shows that more respondents than not have an unfavorable view of Jealous. About 33 percent of those surveyed said they viewed Jealous unfavorably, while 31 percent had a favorable view.
By contrast, Hogan was viewed favorably by 65 percent of respondents, while 19 percent said they viewed the governor in an unfavorable light.
“Jealous’ momentum from the primary hasn’t carried over to the general election race,” Gonzales said. “He’s underwater.”
Gonzales notes the state of Maryland has not re-elected a Republican governor since Theodore McKeldin in 1954. Voters here also have not re-elected a Republican to statewide office since Charles “Mac” Mathias won a third term to the U.S. Senate in 1980.
He said if Hogan wins re-election it would be akin to a “near Halley’s Comet-like phenomenon.”
Scott Sloofman, spokesman for the Hogan campaign, said the poll shows that “under Governor Hogan’s leadership, the overwhelming majority of Marylanders are confident that our state is headed in the right direction.”