Maryland voters back income tax cut, cigarette tax hike

Listen to this article

By Len Lazarick

Maryland voters of all parties favor cutting the state income tax rate by 10% and raising the cigarette tax by $1 a pack, a new Gonzales Research poll found.

Gov. Larry Hogan continues to gain high job approval ratings of almost 70%, with even a majority of Democrats approving his performance.

The Democratic race to succeed Barbara Mikulski in the U.S. Senate continues to be neck and neck between Reps. Donna Edwards at 41% and Chris Van Hollen at 42%.

Hillary Clinton clobbers Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in the presidential race among Democrats, with 57% backing Clinton and 26% supporting Sanders, while 17% are undecided.

On criminal justice changes, Republicans continue to take a stricter approach, with most (61%) opposing getting rid of mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders. More than three out of five Democrats (62%) and unaffiliated voters (65%) support such a move.

The poll, taken last week (Feb. 29-March 4), interviewed 809 registered voters who vote regularly, using both landlines and cell phones. The overall poll has a margin of error of 3.5%. Full poll results here.

An over-sampling of 411 Democrats who regularly vote in primaries was made for the primary contests, with a margin of error of 5%. Not enough Republicans were sampled (250) for reliable numbers on the GOP primary contests.

Pollster Patrick Gonzales said in his analysis: “What’s most striking about Hogan’s approval rating is not so much his lofty numbers among Republicans [94%] and unaffiliated voters [82%]; rather — given our penchant for highly charged partisan politics in this country — it’s that Maryland Democrats have not reached an equal and opposite negative mindset toward the GOP governor.” More than half of Democrats (53%) approve of the job he is doing.

Democrats in the legislature have resisted Hogan’s modest attempts to reduce taxes, except on the working poor.

But more than half of registered Democrats (55%) and three-quarters of Republicans (76%) and unaffiliated (74%) support a 10% cut in the personal income tax rate.

Hogan has promised to roll back as many tax hikes of the last eight years as he can. But even 57% Republicans favor boosting the cigarette tax from $2 to $3 a pack, as proposed in legislation this session.

According to federal estimates, only 19% of Maryland adults smoke.

The Democratic Senate primary is close because of Edwards’ strong lead among African American voters (70%) and in the majority black jurisdictions of Baltimore City (54%) and her home Prince George’s County (69%). She also has a smaller lead among women voters (47%-36% for Van Hollen).

UPDATED 3/8, 6:40 a.m.: Van Hollen spokeswoman Bridget Frey put out this statement on the poll results: “Today’s Washington Post endorsement presents a clear choice: Chris Van Hollen will be a real force for accomplishment in the Senate, while Donna Edwards is part of the problem in Washington. We are confident that difference matters to Maryland voters.”