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Is Maryland part of the North or South? In poll, a decisive answer to a once-divisive question.

Is Maryland more of a Northern or Southern state?

It depends on who in Maryland you ask. But it might not matter so much where specifically they live.

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From the rolling farmland of the marshy Eastern Shore to the edge of Appalachia, the Goucher Poll results released this week are similar. Between 60% and 70% of respondents surveyed in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties, in the Baltimore metro area, and in the more rural reaches of Eastern, Western and Southern Maryland felt Maryland belonged to the North.

For a question seemingly so divisive, the 700 Marylanders polled were surprisingly decisive. Overall, 66% of them considered Maryland a Northern state and 27% dubbed it a Southern one. Factor in race, political party or education level and the breakdown hardly changed. Women and young people were slightly more likely to break for the North.

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But people who identified politically as progressives were perhaps the only thing close to an outlier— 80% of them considered Maryland a Northern state, compared with little more than 60% of moderates and conservatives.

Goucher’s poll traditionally includes a fun, offbeat question, said Mileah Kromer, director of the college’s Sarah T. Hughes Center for Politics, which runs the survey. In the past, it’s been about Old Bay seasoning or Major League Baseball. Next time, she might just organize respondents’ answers by zodiac sign. But this question has stirred the most discussion so far, she said.

“I read somewhere that Maryland is aggressively proud of itself,” she said. “I remember reading that and laughing, because people in Maryland love the flag, they love the Maryland culture stuff here. But Maryland is also situated in a weird place geographically and politically. It’s more politically like the Northeast but then it’s technically below the Mason-Dixon Line.”

It’s a question with a variety of barometers — from politics to culture, climate to cuisine. Each one yields a different answer.

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A post marking the base point in the survey of Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon. Mason and Dixon began their survey a century before the Civil War to settle a border dispute between Pennsylvania and Maryland.
A post marking the base point in the survey of Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon. Mason and Dixon began their survey a century before the Civil War to settle a border dispute between Pennsylvania and Maryland. (Matt Rourke , Carroll County Times)

Consider the question in terms of the past eight presidential elections, and you’ll find Maryland was far more likely to vote blue with the Northeast than it was to vote red with the Carolinas or the Rust Belt. But consider the question in terms of decidedly Southern cypress swamps, as Maryland’s Department of Information advised in 1956, and the Old Line State gets lumped in with the South. Worcester County’s Pocomoke River State Park hosts the northernmost such forest in the U.S., according to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

Many minds leap to the American Civil War, when Maryland stayed in the Union, if reluctantly. A slave state, Maryland was also home to the nation’s largest contingent of freed Black men and women from 1810 to the beginning of the war, located in Baltimore.

But Baltimore’s Pratt Street was the site of the war’s first casualties, after a mob of Southern sympathizers attacked Union troops bound for Washington just five days after the surrender of Fort Sumter in South Carolina. By the time Maryland’s legislature voted against secession in July 1861 (convened in the more solidly pro-Union city of Frederick) the city was already operating under martial law.

But in recent years, state leaders have appeared eager to shake some of Maryland’s ties to the Old South, tossing out the state song and its talk of “Northern scum,” and jumping from the Southern Region of the Council of State Governments to the Eastern Region in 2010.

In Baltimore, Confederate statues paying homage to Robert E. Lee and others were memorably toppled under the cloak of darkness in 2017. Even a pro-Confederate monument to the “Talbot Boys” in Easton is scheduled for removal, after a series of contentious votes from the Talbot County Council.

“Today, although there are areas of the state that sort of hang on to their old traditions and their statues, the state has become much more Northern in its political inclinations and also in its culture,” said Matthew Crenson, a Johns Hopkins University political science professor who in 2017 wrote the book “Baltimore: A Political History.”

Some of that has to do with demographic change, he said. Spreading urbanization and suburbanization could be aligning Maryland more closely to the American North, with transplants arriving in the growing Washington, D.C., suburbs, for instance.

“I think many Marylanders, especially the more recent arrivals in the state, see the South as a kind of backward part of the country — rightly or wrongly,” Crenson said, “and they would rather be seen as forward-looking and up to date.”

Baltimore Sun librarian Paul McCardell contributed to this article.

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