Governor Martin O'Malley talks about the legislation for marriage equality he is backing as supporters of same-sex marriage stand with him outside Government House.
Governor Martin O'Malley talks about the legislation for marriage equality he is backing as supporters of same-sex marriage stand with him outside Government House. (Kim Hairston, Baltimore Sun)

Half of Marylanders view Martin O'Malley's performance as governor favorably, but only one in five say they would support him for president, according to a new poll conducted for The Baltimore Sun.

After a rocky year that included two special sessions of the General Assembly and an income tax increase, 50 percent of likely Maryland voters surveyed said they approve of the job O'Malley is doing, while 43 percent disapprove.

Even as O'Malley has taken a conspicuous role in the national political debate, home-state voters reject the notion of his moving into the White House by more than a 2-1 margin. Fifty percent of likely voters said they would not support him for president, while 21 percent said they would.

Pollster Steve Raabe said the numbers don't necessarily reflect how voters would view an O'Malley candidacy as the 2016 race gets closer.

"He's still governor, and the voters of Maryland expect him to be governor and not looking ahead to what he may do next," said Raabe, president of OpinionWorks, which conducted the poll for The Sun.

Meanwhile, the race to succeed the term-limited O'Malley in 2014 appears to be wide open, with no candidate attracting more than 10 percent support. Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown hits that mark, while his likely rivals all place in single digits.

The poll brings mixed news for Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. Those who have an opinion about her regard her favorably, 26 percent to 14 percent. But 60 percent of Maryland voters either don't recognize her name or have no opinion of her.

The poll indicates that Marylanders have favorable views of their two U.S. senators and even — by a narrow margin — the General Assembly. However, the casino industry, which has collectively spent more than $65 million on a media campaign to sway voters in the Nov. 6 election, is viewed unfavorably, 50 percent to 30 percent.

O'Malley remains a highly polarizing figure in Maryland politics, earning approval from 68 percent of Democrats but only 14 percent of Republicans. Independents split 53 percent to 39 percent in his favor.

April Shunk, 31, of Joppa reflects the antipathy many Republicans feel toward O'Malley.

"I just don't believe a thing he says," she said. "He seems very puppetlike and very flaky."

Though he built his political career in Baltimore, the governor enjoys his strongest support in the Washington suburbs. In Montgomery County, 74 percent of likely voters approve of his performance as governor, while 18 percent disapprove. In Baltimore and Baltimore County, only 50 percent like the job he's doing.

Even where his support as governor is high, O'Malley is having a hard time convincing Marylanders that he would be ready to be president in 2016. Half of poll respondents in Baltimore say they would not support him, while fewer than a third would. Among his fellow Democrats, 30 percent say they would support him in a run for the White House while the same percentage say they would not. The rest haven't decided.

"As a prospect right now in the middle of his second term, it's not as if the voters are ready to take the next step. They want him to keep doing the job he's doing today," Raabe said.

Irwin Pikus, a 76-year-old Democrat from Montgomery County, approves of the job O'Malley is doing as governor but doesn't back him for president. "He has it together. I think he's a very competent fellow. He's just not my guy," Pikus said.

For Rawlings-Blake, the poll shows that she has not yet established herself as a statewide political leader in the mold of O'Malley or the late William Donald Schaefer. But where she is known, her numbers are relatively strong. In Baltimore, 54 percent of voters view her favorably. In Baltimore County, 55 percent view her positively. But her name recognition in the Washington suburbs hovers around 20 percent.

"In her home region, she's fairly well regarded," Raabe said. While Rawlings-Blake isn't much known outside the Baltimore media market, Raabe said, her strong showing in Baltimore County indicates she has the potential to appeal to voters in other parts of the state.

The poll shows that most Maryland voters are not looking ahead to the 2014 contest for governor. Two-thirds said they are undecided. Among the potential Democratic candidates, Brown's 10 percent was followed by Comptroller Peter Franchot at 7 percent, Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler at 5 percent and Howard County Executive Ken Ulman at 3 percent. Two percent said they would support Republican Harford County Executive David Craig.

"It's a completely wide-open proposition, and nobody seems to have solidified a base within the Democratic Party," Raabe said. "Anthony Brown appears to be perhaps in the strongest position — but that's a relative term."


Survey methodology

The telephone survey of 801 likely Maryland voters was conducted by OpinionWorks, an Annapolis-based polling firm, from Oct. 20 to Oct. 23. The margin of error is 3.5 percentage points.