Howard County Polling: What does it all mean?

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Center Maryland has long been interested in publishing credible data on polling in Maryland – whether it is polling that we help produce, or polling that is provided to us by others.

It’s worth reminding Center Maryland readers that the Center Maryland / OpinionWorks poll before the primary was the first to show a widening gap among likely voters between Governor O’Malley and former Governor Ehrlich. That gap appears to have continued to grow according to recent polls from the Washington Post and Rasmussen Reports.

The kerfuffle in Howard County yesterday over the publication of a Gonzales Research poll on the executive’s race prompted us to do some more digging. The poll – first published in , and linked to by Center Maryland as a politics article – seemed to suggest that County Executive Ken Ulman was leading his Republican challenger, former Ehrlich administration official Trent Kittleman, by 8 percentage points. (The Baltimore Sun also wrote a blog posting about the poll yesterday.)

But we heard lots of immediate criticism about some of the assumptions of this latest poll. For example, even though Howard County’s party registration is only 30 percent Republican, the poll of 381 likely voters assumed that Republicans would represent 40 percent of people who come out to vote on November 2.

During the course of our digging, Center Maryland came across a poll of 400 voters recently conducted on behalf of the Ken Ulman campaign, which we thought might be useful to our readers. In this poll, Republicans were assumed to be a third of voters – about 10 percent higher than voter registration, but far less than the 33 percent boost that was assumed in the Gonzales poll.

Ulman led in this poll 62 percent to 29 percent, with 69 percent of voters approving of his job performance and 13 percent disapproving. Even Howard County Republicans had a net positive view of Ulman’s job performance, with 47 percent approval compared to 24 percent disapproval.

Here’s a memo from Ulman’s pollster, Fred Yang of the Garin-Hart-Yang Research Group, to the Ulman campaign about the poll.

Who is right? We won’t know for sure until the results are in from November 2. In the meantime, Center Maryland will try to keep sharing as much polling data as we can get our hands on. If you have a poll that you would like to share, please email us the information at .
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