In this modern era of “anything goes politics” when candidates, special interests and the media feel free to say and do whatever it takes to win elections, it’s hard to find a reliable source.
The media not only play politics with their news reporting, they even skew their opinion polls to advance their political agendas. So it’s comforting to have at least one independent polling service, Gonzales Research, that’s more interested in accuracy than advocacy.
Here’s the latest Gonzales survey of likely Maryland voters. Some results are surprising, some unsurprising and some help clear the air of so-called “internal polls” and polls designed to mislead the public.
Barack Obama is leading Mitt Romney in Maryland by 19 points (55 percent to 36 percent), no surprise in the nation’s fourth-most-liberal, Democratic-voting state.
But interestingly, Obama’s favorable rating has sunk from 80 percent (January 2009) to 54 percent. Obama’s core support in Maryland is women (63 percent), blacks (88 percent), independents (61 percent) and, of course, Democrats (79 percent).
The other big non-surprise is Gonzales’ finding that the top problem facing most Marylanders is the economy/jobs (46 percent). A distant second is taxes (12 percent), and education, usually people’s top concern, now runs third (9.8 percent).
U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin will win re-election, but mildly surprising is his 49.8 percent vote. Cardin is weakest among men (41 percent) and whites (43 percent). Even 26 percent of his fellow Democrats aren’t voting for him.
More surprising is the rise of U.S. Senate independent candidate Rob Sobhani, a late entry Montgomery County millionaire who’s flooding the airwaves with ads and who may finish second ahead of the Republican, Dan Bongino. In the Gonzales poll, Bongino is at 21.6 percent, Sobhani at 20.9 percent.
Except for the 6th Congressional District, most of this year’s public office races are foregone conclusions. Instead, this year’s big draw is four highly controversial state ballot questions in which the Gonzales poll updates us on voter sentiment and blows the whistle on some phony advocacy polls.
The Dream Act, college and university in-state tuition rates for illegal aliens, is a big surprise. A January Gonzales poll showed 48 percent voting yes, 49 percent voting no. Now, voter sentiment has shifted to 58 percent yes, 34 percent no. This is not the 60 percent yes, 26 percent no reported this month by a polling service hired by Dream Act supporters, but it’s a strong indication that the Dream Act is well on its way to victory.
Same-sex marriage squeaked through the legislature this year and was petitioned to referendum by more than 160,000 voters. A full-court press by Democrats and the media aims at making Maryland the first state where voters affirm gay marriage (voters in 32 other states rejected it).
In May, the gay-marriage lobby released a poll claiming an amazing shift in its favor, 57 percent yes, 37 percent no. Even more amazing, the poll said that black voters, formerly opposed to gay marriage, now support it 53 percent to 36 percent. The media dutifully broadcast these poll results throughout the summer as proof of momentum. But not so fast. According to Gonzales, voter sentiment has barely moved.
In a Gonzales January poll, Maryland voters were 49 percent in favor of gay marriage, 47 percent opposed. Now, in September, the vote is 51 percent in favor, 43 percent opposed with 6 percent undecided and a 3.5 percent margin of error.
Likewise, Gonzales puts the lie to the gay lobby’s poll results among African-Americans. Yes, blacks have shifted from 33 percent in favor, 60 percent opposed (January) to 44 percent in favor, 52 percent opposed. But that’s hardly the 55 percent in favor, 36 percent opposed among blacks claimed by the gays and the media back in May!
The gay lobby can take heart in Gonzales data showing that independent voters (up 10 points in favor) and even Republicans are more open to gay marriage. But watch out for the “Bradley effect,” the tendency of voters to tell pollsters one thing on questions of race and sex, but to do the opposite in the voting booth.
One outcome of the media’s massive push for gay marriage is to drive the opposition underground. No one wants to be labeled a public homophobe or hater, so opponents sometimes answer “yes” or “undecided” in a poll, but vote “no” on Election Day.
The Gonzales polls biggest surprise, by far, is the gambling expansion response. Last month the state legislature, in special session, sent a bill to voter referendum that would add a new casino site in P.G. County and legalize table games. To become law this bill must win voter support statewide and in P.G. County. But Gonzales shows 44.6 percent in favor of and 46.1 percent opposed.
Unlike the original 2008 slots referendum, when all the gambling interests spent millions on ads claiming gambling would increase education funding, save horse racing and replace new taxes, this time some big gambling interests, opposed to new competition, are spending millions asking voters to say “no.”
Interestingly, women favor gambling expansion more than do men, possibly because of the education funding pitch. Even though Maryland’s gambling revenues have simply replaced current education dollars, not increased them, it’s a powerful ploy.
That’s why supporters of a Colorado ballot question legalizing marijuana are using the same tactic -- taxing weed will increase school funds.
So, in Maryland the pitch is “slots for tots,” while in Colorado it’s “pot for tots.” Crazy world.
Blair Lee is CEO of the Lee Development Group in Silver Spring and a regular commentator for WBAL radio. His column appears Fridays in The Gazette. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.