Poll: O’Malley leads Ehrlich by 6 percentage points among likely voters

Gov. Martin O’Malley leads former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. 47 percent to 41 percent among likely voters in November’s general election, according to a new poll released Tuesday.

The Center Maryland / OpinionWorks telephone poll of likely Maryland voters also found that 49 percent approve of the job O’Malley is doing as governor, compared to 39 percent who disapprove. (Click here to see the question and results.)

When asked whether things in Maryland are headed in the “right direction” or “off on the wrong track,” 40 percent of likely voters said right direction, while 42 percent said wrong track. (Click here to see the question and results.)

“These are not great numbers for Governor O’Malley considering the partisan tilt of the state, but on balance, he is still up,” said Steve Raabe, president and founder of the Annapolis-based OpinionWorks, which conducted the poll in conjunction with the non-profit Center Maryland. “Dissatisfaction with O’Malley is not that intense. Particularly in these economic times, you would expect it to be worse.”

The Center Maryland / OpinionWorks Statewide Voter Survey was conducted August 13-18, 2010. The telephone survey questioned 600 likely General Election voters statewide, and has a margin of error of 4 percentage points. The sample was balanced by region of the state, political party, age, gender, and race/ethnicity to reflect the characteristics of Maryland’s likely voter population.

To assess the opinions of voters most likely to vote in November’s election, the poll asked whether they are certain or probable to vote. That created a group of 551 voters, with a margin of error of 4.2 percentage points. The poll model assumes that African-American voters will comprise 19 percent of the overall Maryland turnout – a smaller percentage than the actual turnout in the most recent Maryland statewide elections but reflective of likely voting patterns this year.

The survey found a greater intensity among Republicans and other Ehrlich supporters in their desire to vote in November’s General Election, according to Raabe.

Among voters who said they are “certain” to vote, O’Malley leads Ehrlich by 1 percentage point, 45 percent to 44 percent. But for all voters who identified their likelihood to vote as “50-50” or better, O’Malley’s lead grew larger, 48 percent to 40 percent. (Click here to see the question and results.)

“For O’Malley, it is all about turnout and motivating the base,” said Raabe, whose firm has extensive experience polling in Maryland political races, including for the Baltimore Sun during recent campaigns. “If they can produce a normal gubernatorial election turnout, they should have a relatively comfortable margin, barring an event this fall that changes the shape of the race.

“But this is not a normal year. There is a greater intensity among Republicans. If the soft Democrats stay home, Ehrlich has a solid chance,” Raabe said. “Some of those soft Democrats are going to come – that really is O’Malley’s hope. The question is how many.”

So far, O’Malley has significantly more money in the bank for the campaign compared to Ehrlich. Since early last month, O’Malley has been spending about $160,000 a week on television advertising in the Baltimore market, according to the Baltimore Sun, and Ehrlich has not answered.

In 1998 – the last time Maryland featured a gubernatorial rematch from the election four years earlier – a poll taken prior to the September primary had Gov. Parris N. Glendening ahead by only 1 percentage point over Republican Ellen R. Sauerbrey. Glendening went on to win easily in November.

While Republicans are hoping to pick up congressional and state seats in races across the nation, the poll found that the GOP has not yet persuaded Maryland voters to give them support. They appear positioned to make only modest pickups in Maryland.

When asked whether they intended to vote for more Republicans or more Democrats in the fall’s state and local elections, 43 percent of likely voters said Democrats and 31 percent said Republicans. (Click here to see the question and results.) Seventy-two percent of Republicans and 67 percent of Democrats plan to vote for most of the candidates of their own party, while Independents gave the Republican candidates a 2-point edge. In Maryland, registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans by a 2-to-1 margin.

Who conducted the poll:

OpinionWorks is a research firm based in Annapolis that has extensive experience conducting polling and focus group surveys in Maryland and around the country. Recent clients include the Baltimore Sun, New York City Mayor’s Office, Florida Courts System, and non-profit organizations working in such areas as mass transit, health care, higher education, water protection, and museums and the arts. (www.opinionworks.com)

Center Maryland is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit media outlet that highlights issues of real importance to job creation and economic growth in Maryland – with straight-down-the-middle reporting by professional journalists. Center Maryland features weekly columns from Donald Fry, President of the Greater Baltimore Committee, and long-time Maryland political commentator Josh Kurtz. Center Maryland’s website (www.centermaryland.org) and daily email provide the most comprehensive aggregation of media sources in Maryland.