Environment draws more support than job growth

Issue questions

The Maryland Poll

January 11, 2004|By Howard Libit | Howard Libit,SUN STAFF

Marylanders remain committed to protecting the environment, even at the expense of job growth, but they are concerned about the pace of Chesapeake Bay restoration, according to the poll.

The poll found that 59 percent of likely Maryland voters believe the state should "work hard to protect the environment, even if it might cost some jobs," while 20 percent believe it is "more important to grow the economy, even if it hurts the environment." The response is virtually unchanged over the past four years.

Even among Republican voters, 46 percent prefer to protect the environment over jobs, compared to 28 percent saying economic growth is more important.

"Protecting the environment has always been a very bipartisan issue, and that's particularly the case in Maryland," said Susan Brown, executive director of the Maryland League of Conservation Voters. "This shows Marylanders consistently believe in strong environmental protections and enforcement of those laws, and that is the message the governor and legislature should see from these numbers."

Keith Haller, president of the polling company, said Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. may have gotten the message. "To come across as a moderate and continue to cross partisan lines," Haller said, "he can't ignore a serious commitment to environmental issues, especially the bay."

Ehrlich's legislative agenda for the coming General Assembly session includes several substantive environmental issues, including a proposal for a $2.50 monthly surcharge on users of municipal sewage facilities to help cut pollution into the bay.

When voters were asked in the poll whether the Chesapeake Bay Agreement - which recently marked its 20th anniversary - has "played an important role in making the bay cleaner," only 42 percent agreed. Thirty-seven percent said the agreement has "not made much of a difference."

"People see the bay is getting better, but it's not getting better fast enough," said Christopher Conner, a spokesman for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Chesapeake Bay Program.

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