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UMD-Post Poll: Maryland Voters Increasingly Concerned About Crime

Views on Marijuana Legalization, U.S. Senate Representation Also Explored

By Rachael Grahame ’17

collage of marijuana, capitol building, guy in handcuffs

The new poll revealed worries about crime in Maryland, support for former Gov. Larry Hogan's recently announced run for the U.S. Senate, and mixed feelings about the legalization of recreational marijuana in the state.

From left, photos via Unsplash, Adobe Stock, and iStock

A rising share of Maryland voters say crime is the biggest problem facing the state, according to a new poll conducted by the University of Maryland’s Center for Democracy and Civic Engagement and The Washington Post.

The poll of 1,004 registered Maryland voters, fielded March 5-12, found that registered voters in the reliably blue state lean toward sending former Republican Gov. Larry Hogan to the U.S. Senate over two Democratic candidates, and they are split on whether legalized recreational marijuana has been good for the state.

“This survey has a wealth of interesting information and reinforces the importance of doing surveys that allow regular people to weigh in on the issues that matter to them and how they are thinking about the candidates.” said Mike Hanmer, a government and politics professor, and director of the Center for Democracy and Civic Engagement. “I learned a great deal, suspect the candidates and their campaigns might have too, and the responses suggest a number of new avenues for research.”


Maryland voters were asked whether they were most concerned about crime, affordable housing, public education, taxes, jobs and the economy, roads and transit, climate change or something else, and 32% picked crime—up from 23% who said so in 2019. The share mentioning affordable housing also grew, from 13% to 19%. (The poll’s overall results have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.3 percentage points.)

Roughly four in 10 Republican voters said crime was their primary concern, compared to smaller shares of Democrats (31%) and independents (25%). Smaller differences were observed when responses were broken down by gender. Crime was clearly the main concern among those 40 and older, but for younger adults, it was similar to affordable housing.

When asked whether opioid and fentanyl use, teenagers committing crimes, carjackings or gun violence were major, minor or non-issues in their communities, 51% of Maryland registered voters said opioid and fentanyl use was a major issue. Forty-seven percent also said that teens committing crimes was a major issue, while voters were somewhat less concerned about the severity of carjackings and gun violence in their communities, or lack thereof.

Despite all this, 81% of registered Marylanders reported feeling “very” or “somewhat” safe in their own neighborhoods, ticking down four percentage points from when the question was last asked in 2022.

“The results about crime stood out to me,” Hanmer said. “I think it will be important to track how the candidates for office this year address this issue. The results also suggest a need for more research to disentangle the overall concern with crime and the relatively high level of safety people feel in their own neighborhoods.”

Recreational Marijuana

The poll also revealed Maryland voters’ latest thoughts on what, since July 1, is fully legal in the state: recreational marijuana use. Despite two-thirds of Marylanders voting in 2022 to legalize it, the recent poll found that just under one-third of voters said that legalization has been a good thing. An identical percentage said it has been bad for Maryland, including 47% of Republicans compared to 27% of Democrats and 24% of independents. Another 34% said it has been “neither good nor bad.”

In addition, a full half of respondents oppose having a marijuana dispensary or store open in their own community. On this issue, support was the highest in Southern Maryland and on the Eastern Shore (51%). Prince George’s County voters were the most strongly against a dispensary or store opening where they live, with 59% opposed.

Just 15% of respondents said they have purchased marijuana or cannabis products since they’ve become legal in the state. Among those who haven’t yet, only 9% said they are likely to buy such products in the coming years.

U.S. Senate Matchups

The legalization of marijuana isn’t the only thing that Maryland voters are feeling conflicted about these days: Who should take the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Ben Cardin?

Maryland hasn’t had a Republican senator since early 1987, but Hogan, who left the governor’s mansion in 2022, entered the race unexpectedly last month. 

Though voters said that they would prefer Democratic control of the U.S. Senate by a 20-percentage point margin, Hogan currently leads Democratic U.S. Rep. David Trone and Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks 49% to 37% and 50% to 36%, respectively. The Democratic primary will be held May 14.

A much higher percentage of registered voters in the state have an opinion about Hogan—a popular two-term governor—while 46% have no opinion of Trone, a four-term congressman, and 58% reported having no impression of Alsobrooks, who has led the second-largest county in Maryland since 2019.

At the time of the survey, 64% said they had a favorable opinion of Hogan, 33% had a favorable opinion of Trone, and 26% had a favorable opinion of Alsobrooks. The survey was fielded before Trone used a racial slur at a budget hearing.

“It is still very early and a great deal will change before the election. But these results suggest that the race for Maryland’s open Senate seat is going to be competitive.” Hanmer said. “A number of Democrats prefer a Senate controlled by their party but at the same time could see themselves voting for Hogan. How the campaigns address control of the Senate and how much of an impact that has is something to watch.”



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