Governor plunges in poll

March 22, 1995|By Peter Jensen | Peter Jensen,Mason-Dixon poll JEF DAUBER/SUN STAFF GRAPHIC MASON-DIXON POLL RESULTS JEF DAUBER/SUN STAFF GRAPHICSun Staff Writer

Maryland voters aren't happy with Gov. Parris N. Glendening's job performance.

Sixty-five percent of voters contacted in a statewide survey released yesterday rate the job he's done so far as "fair" or "poor."

Just 18 percent rate the governor as "excellent" or "good," with the remainder undecided, according to the poll by Mason-Dixon Political Media Research of Columbia.

Del Ali, vice president of Mason-Dixon, said Mr. Glendening's job review is the lowest of any of the 30 governors his firm has tested nationwide over the past six months.

Freshman governors in New York, Hawaii and New Mexico, for instance, have generally received job reviews with positives in the 40 percent to 50 percent range, he said.

"This is not the kind of start you want," Mr. Ali said. "There has never been a honeymoon with this guy."

Mr. Glendening's rating rivals the worst marks given to former Gov. William Donald Schaefer, who reached his lowest popularity two years ago. In March 1993, Mr. Schaefer dropped to a combined 16 percent rating of excellent or good.

Mr. Glendening's first two months in office have been dogged with controversy. His problems have ranged from the allegations of voter fraud in the election to the disclosure of generous pension benefits he and three top aides stood to receive from Prince George's County.

The governor also lost the fight to lift restrictions on state-funded abortions for poor women, and he only reluctantly revealed that a single Baltimore businessman picked up $95,000 of his legal tab from Republican Ellen R. Sauerbrey's election challenge.

In fact, the poll found that 60 percent of voters have a less favorable impression of the governor because of the political controversies, including the pension flap.

"I understand it's a terrible position to be in, but I'd rather be in this position now than four years from now," Mr. Glendening said yesterday when told of the poll results.

"I'm very optimistic that we will do a very good job and after four years people will be comfortable with my stewardship," he said.

Mr. Glendening fared better when voters were asked their impression of him, rather than of his performance. He was perceived favorably by 38 percent of voters, unfavorably by 37 percent, and 25 percent were neutral.

That result could ultimately be critical to his re-election chances, Mr. Ali said.

"People don't dislike him personally," but they "are a bit leery of him because of controversies in his administration," he said.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. said the poll results come as no surprise and confirm his opinion that the governor has lost contact with middle-class voters. He compared Mr. Glendening's handling of the smoking ban to President Clinton's failed health care reform efforts.

"The speaker and I have to help the governor help himself," said Mr. Miller, a Prince George's County Democrat. "He's new to Annapolis, and he needs to be a quicker study in state politics."

House Minority Leader Robert H. Kittleman noted that Mr. Glendening's minimal support could still get worse. "I'm trying to think of who those 18 percent are who see him as positive -- maybe they were out-of-state," said Mr. Kittleman, a Howard County Republican.

The poll, which was conducted for The Sun and other news organizations, was based on telephone interviews with 808 randomly selected registered voters Wednesday through Saturday of last week. The poll's margin of error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

On other Maryland topics, the poll found that 55 percent of voters support a ban on smoking in the workplace, but a larger majority -- 60 percent -- do not believe it should apply to bars, restaurants or hotels. An estimated 75 percent think a ban would hurt those businesses.

Mr. Glendening said that result is not at odds with his position. While he opposes legislation recently enacted by the General Assembly to exempt the hospitality industry, he said he is willing to compromise, but declined to offer specifics.

"I think the voters want a common sense approach," the governor said.

On the subject of affirmative action, the poll found that 45 percent of voters favor the rollback efforts in Congress, while just 27 percent prefer Mr. Glendening's plan to increase the amount of state business earmarked for minorities.

The governor's action did win approval in one case. The $20 million in economic incentives he committed to get McCormick & Co. to build a distribution center in Harford County was seen as "pro-business" by 47 percent of voters, compared with 30 percent who saw it as a "handout."

Meanwhile, more than half of voters surveyed thought Mrs. Sauerbrey should pay for the $100,000 in expenses incurred by the election board in Montgomery County to research voter fraud allegations.

If the election between Mr. Glendening and Mrs. Sauerbrey were held again today, the governor would be favored -- but his victory would not be certain. The poll found him leading her 47 percent to 43 percent, with 10 percent undecided.

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