Cumberland Times-News

September 29, 2012

Poll: Voters support Dream Act, close on gay marriage, slightly opposed to gaming expansion

Len Lazarick

— ANNAPOLIS — In-state college tuition for children of illegal immigrants appears safely headed for passage on the November ballot, according to a new statewide poll. Opinion on the same-sex marriage question is closer yet trending toward approval, but expansion of gambling may have difficulty passing in a tight vote.

The Gonzales research poll taken this past week also found Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin with a comfortable 50 percent lead in his re-election bid against Republican Dan Bongino and independent Rob Sobhani, who are splitting the opposition. President Barack Obama, as expected, is far ahead of Gov. Mitt Romney in Maryland, with the support of 55 percent of those polled and 8 percent undecided.

Those are some of the findings in a new Maryland poll taken Sept. 17-23 by Gonzales Research and Marketing Strategies that surveyed 813 likely voters with a margin of error of 3.5 percent. Here are the full results of the poll.

On the so-called Dream Act granting in-state tuition to illegal immigrants who have graduated from Maryland high schools, 58 percent of Marylanders say they will vote for Question 4, 34 percent say they will vote against and 8 percent are undecided. Pollster Patrick Gonzales said, “Support for Question 4 is very high among Democrats and African- Americans, which is a winning combination in Maryland.”

The poll found three out of four Democrats (75 percent) support the tuition question, along with 70 percent of African-Americans and 67 percent of women. Republicans are the only group strongly opposed to the idea, with 62 percent against.

Numbers are far closer on the issue of same-sex marriage, with opposition among African-Americans helping to drag down strong support by two-thirds of Democrats and independents.

Statewide, 51 percent of voters say they will vote for Question 6, while 43 percent say they are opposed and 6 percent are undecided. Among African-Americans, 44 percent are for it, while 52 percent are against. But Gonzales said black support is up from the January survey when only 33 percent favored same-sex marriage, suggesting that support for the issue by President Obama and other influential black leaders has helped shift opinion.

Again, only Republicans are strongly opposed (75 percent), and a slight plurality of men (48 percent).

These numbers on same-sex marriage are not as positive as polls released by groups supporting the issue, but they are trending in the same direction.

The contest to allow a sixth casino in Maryland and table games in all of them is close, with 45 percent of Maryland voters supporting the expansion, 46 percent opposed and 9 percent undecided. African-Americans again are the swing vote, with only 31 percent favoring the idea, and 64 percent opposed, compared to 51 percent of Democrats as a whole in favor of the proposition.

This divergence on the issue between white and black Democrats, Gonzales said, “could present an obstacle on Election Day for supporters of expanded gaming in Maryland.”

The poll also sought to gauge intensity of support for these ballot questions among people who said they were likely to get out to vote. Gonzales found that there was greater intensity among supporters of same-sex marriage and in-state tuition, but opponents of expanded gambling were more intense in their opposition than supporters.

The economy continues to be the top issue in the state, as it has been for the last three years, with 46 percent listing it as their top concern, a number only slightly down from 49 percent in January and its peak of 62 percent in September 2011.

As “one of the most reliably ‘blue’ states over the past 20 years,” Gonzales found 54 percent of voters had a favorable opinion of the president, and 50 percent had an unfavorable opinion of Romney.

Support for Obama is strongest among Democrats (81 percent), women (62 percent) and independents (59 percent), a group where he has a two-to-one advantage. “Gov. Romney labors under a huge deficit among female voters in Maryland,” Gonzales said.

Independent Rob Sobhani was not even a factor in the U.S. Senate race until he got 77,000 signatures to put him on the ballot in August, then began spending millions of his own money on TV ads. The advertising has placed him neck-and-neck with Republican Dan Bongino, the ex-Secret Service agent who has been campaigning for 16 months. Bongino has 21.6 percent support and Sobhani has 20.9 percent, with Cardin far in the lead with 49.8 percent.

Cardin enjoys 74 percent support among Democrats, but he and Sobhani are almost even among independents with 39 percent and 38 percent, and Bongino far behind at 10 percent. Bongino only has a real edge among Republicans, but even there, Sobhani, who made a fortune in the international oil trade and has run for the Senate as a Republican, enjoys 22 percent support.