ANNAPOLIS — Democratic voters remain heavily undecided ahead of Maryland’s gubernatorial primary, a new poll shows.
The front-runners in the Goucher Poll — Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker, Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz and former NAACP President Ben Jealous — still remain largely unknown to voters, according to the new data released Thursday morning.
Baker had the highest favorability rating among the eight-person primary at 30 percent, but 59 percent of likely Democratic voters said they didn’t have an opinion of him.
Jealous followed with a 28 percent favorability rating and 22 percent saw Kamenetz favorably, with a similar number of voters saying they had no opinion of either man.
The poll reflects the views of 409 likely Democratic primary voters who were reached by phone between Feb. 12 and 18. The poll has a margin of error of 4.8 percentage points.
Voters had double-digit favorable opinions of three other candidates: Richard Madaleno, Montgomery County state senator (12 percent); Alec Ross, author and former State Department official (12 percent); and Jim Shea, an attorney from Baltimore County (11 percent).
Krish Vignarajah, former policy director to former first lady Michelle Obama, and Ralph Jaffe, a perennial Democratic candidate, each had a 9 percent favorability rating.
Few voters were set on who they’d vote for.
If the primary election were held today, 19 percent said they would vote for Baker, 12 percent said Kamenetz, and 10 percent would vote for Jealous. No other candidate registered over 3 percent.
Forty-seven percent of those polled said they didn’t know how they would cast a ballot.
“Days out from the candidate filing deadline, our poll suggests that Democratic voters have yet to turn their full attention to the gubernatorial race,” Mileah Kromer, director of the Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center, which conducts the poll, said in a press release announcing the poll results. “With so many undecided voters, there is ample time and room for the field to shift — even dramatically. Yet, at the same time, the lesser known candidates need to increase their name recognition soon or this primary could become a three-way race.”
Baker, Kamenetz and Jealous each saw a bump in those who are ready to vote for them since the question was last asked by the Goucher Poll in September.
Post-primary, the Democratic candidate will face Gov. Larry Hogan (R), who garnered a 61 percent approval rating in the poll, which has been released in parts over the last week. Despite his continued popularity, Hogan has slightly lower re-election odds.
About 47 percent of the 658 likely voters from all parties who were polled said they would “definitely” or are “leaning toward” voting for his re-election this year. Forty-three percent said they are leaning toward or will definitely vote for a different candidate. About 10 percent of those polled were uncertain.
Democratic Senate primary
The poll also sought voters’ opinions on a primary challenge to U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin (D), who is seeking a third term.
Cardin registered strong favorability ratings among Democratic likely voters; 64 percent hold a favorable opinion of Cardin and 15 percent hold an unfavorable opinion.
The poll compared those views with voters’ opinions of Chelsea Manning, the transgender Maryland woman who was convicted of espionage for leaking thousands of documents to WikiLeaks, and who later received a commuted sentence.
Forty-four percent of those polled had no opinion on Manning, 19 percent viewed her favorably and 37 percent viewed her unfavorably.
Asked how they would vote if the primary election were held today, 61 percent said they would vote for Cardin and 17 percent said Manning. Nineteen percent were uncertain how they would vote.
Manning is the most high-profile challenger in the race.
The other Democratic candidates are Marcia Morgan, Jerome “Jerry” Segal, Richard “Rikki” Vaughn, Debbie “Rica” Wilson and Lih Young.
Democratic voters’ views
When asked to describe their own political ideology, 44 percent of Democratic likely voters said they are “progressive,” 43 percent said they are “moderate,” and 10 percent said they are “conservative.”
Asked what issues are most important to them in picking their choice for governor, 26 percent said education, followed by economy and jobs (20 percent), racial and social justice (16 percent), and health care (14 percent).