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Marylanders support legalizing marijuana and boosting school spending, poll finds

Gov. Larry Hogan speaks with reporters in May 2021. Credit: Rachel Baye/WYPR
Gov. Larry Hogan speaks with reporters in May 2021. The latest Goucher Poll found that Hogan continues to maintain strong approval ratings among Marylanders. Credit: Rachel Baye/WYPR

A majority of Marylanders want to see marijuana legalized for recreational use and think the state is spending too little on public schools, according to a new Goucher College poll out Tuesday.

The poll found that 60% of Marylanders support making marijuana legal for recreational use — though that’s a decrease of seven percentage points from when the poll asked the same question in March.

“Certainly when you see a drop by seven points, it's something to keep your eye on,” said Mileah Kromer, director of the Sarah T. Hughes Center for Politics at Goucher College, who runs the Goucher Poll. “But right now, I would say the overall picture is that the legalization of recreational cannabis remains popular in the state.”

Between the release of the March and October polls, state House Speaker Adrienne Jones announced her intention to put the question of whether to legalize marijuana for recreational use on the ballot in 2022.

The poll also found overwhelming support for maintaining legal access to abortion.

“But what you do see is a divide — around 44% of individuals say they want abortion to be legal under all circumstances, no restrictions,” Kromer said. “And another 44% say that they support abortion access, but they are supportive also of some restrictions.”

The poll did not get into what those restrictions respondents want to see.

Women were more likely than men to say they support abortion access in all circumstances — 49% of women took that stance, compared with 38% of men.

When asked about state spending, 54% of those polled said the state spends too little on public K through 12 education. The finding is consistent with the results of previous Goucher polls.

That position is particularly strong among Black residents. Nearly three-quarters of Black Marylanders polled said the state spends too little on public schools, compared with about 45% of white residents.

Women are also more likely than men to say the state spends too little on public schools — 58% of women compared with 49% of men — as are residents under the age of 55 compared with those over that threshold.

A plurality of Marylanders, 47%, say the state spends too little on housing and community development and too little on roads and highways.

As for one of the elected officials making those decisions, the poll found that Gov. Larry Hogan maintains a high approval rating of 68%.

Kromer said she is frequently asked why Hogan, a Republican, is so popular in a state where registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans two to one. To answer that question, she points to other results from her polls.

“The fact that the majority of Marylanders think that the state is going in the right direction and the majority of Marylanders have a positive view of the Maryland economy, they are certainly going to then have a positive view on the job the governor is doing,” she said. “All three of these things are typically related.”

Maryland’s U.S. senators — Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin — have approval ratings of 44% and 46% respectively.

But Kromer cautioned that more than a quarter of poll respondents said they don’t know whether they approve of the jobs their senators are doing, making it tricky to evaluate their approval ratings.

“On one hand, both Van Hollen and Cardin are above water in terms of their approval ratings, so more folks in Maryland approve rather than disapprove of the job they're doing,” Kromer said. “And among Maryland Democrats, both Cardin and Van Hollen earn a majority support.”

Kromer also warned against trying to compare the senators’ approval ratings to Hogan’s. In general, she said, governors tend to be more visible and have better name recognition among poll respondents than members of Congress.

Rachel Baye is a senior reporter and editor in WYPR's newsroom. @RachelBaye
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