Poll: Overwhelming opposition to gas tax hike, increasing opposition to executions

A new poll shows increasing support among Marylanders for abolishing the death penalty and strong backing for tighter gun controls, but strong opposition to an increase in the gas tax despite a recognition of transportation needs.

While Gov. Martin O’Malley has an approval rating of 54%, only 25% of Maryland voters think he should run for president, with 58% saying he should not.

The poll conducted this past week by Gonzales Research & Marketing confirms why any sort of gas tax increase has faced broad opposition in the legislature, despite several attempts to raise it over the last five years.

While 94% of Marylanders recognize the need to maintain and improve Maryland’s transportation system, 73% oppose a 10-cent per gallon increase in the gasoline tax. The opposition was broad across party lines and gender. The poll did not ask about another idea O’Malley has floated: increasing the sales tax to fund transportation needs.

A portion of the corporate income tax already goes into the Transportation Trust Fund.

Death penalty

The poll also found opposition to the death penalty has increased 8 points over the last two years to 44%, and support has declined by a similar margin to 49%. Gov. Martin O’Malley has made abolishing the death penalty a key legislative priority, after failing to achieve it two years ago.

Opposition to the death penalty is strongest among Democrats (60%) and African Americans (59%). Support for executions is strongest among Republicans (77%) and whites (53%).

But three out of five respondents said the sentence of life without parole is an acceptable alternative to the death sentence.

Gun Control

There is a similar partisan divide on banning assault weapons in Maryland, as O’Malley has proposed, with 58% overall supporting such a ban. Support is strongest among Democrats (70%) and women (65%). But opinion is divided over what would do more to reduce violence in schools: 44% say stricter gun control; 36% say armed guards in schools.

The poll also found President Obama had his highest approval rating among Marylanders since his first inauguration, with 65% approving. But the partisan divide was a chasm. Among Democrats, 92% approve of the job the president is doing, and 83% of Republicans disapprove, with 57% of independents approving.

The poll was conducted by telephone Jan. 15-20 surveying 801 registered voters, giving a margin of error of 3.5%.