Poll: Marylanders split on gambling expansion

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Photo - Slot machines (Getty Images)
Slot machines (Getty Images)
Local,Maryland,Matt Connolly

Maryland voters are split over an expansion of gambling in the state, but most support same-sex marriage and the Dream Act, according to a poll released Wednesday.

The poll, conducted by Gonzales Research & Marketing Strategies, found that 46 percent of Maryland voters said they would vote against an expansion of gambling that would allow table games, round-the-clock operation and a casino in Prince George's County. Nearly 45 percent said they would vote for Question 7 on the November ballot. The poll's margin of error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

The results
Ballot question For Against Undecided
Dream Act 57.8% 34.3% 7.9%
Same-sex marriage 50.9% 42.8% 6.3%
Gambling expansion 44.6% 46.1% 9.2%
Note: Survey's margin of error is +/- 3.5 points 

Marylanders' support for same-sex marriage and in-state tuition for some illegal immigrants was much stronger. The poll showed nearly 51 percent of residents voting to legalize same-sex marriage and nearly 43 percent opposed. On the Dream Act, nearly 58 percent said they would vote in favor, while 34 percent said they would vote against.

That support has grown this year. In Gonzales' last poll, in January, 48 percent of respondents supported the Dream Act and 49 percent opposed it. In that poll, 49 percent backed same-sex marriage and 47 percent opposed it.

"The margin with the Dream Act was a little surprising," pollster Patrick Gonzales said. President Obama's high-profile support of same-sex marriage and the federal Dream Act -- which is different from Maryland's measure -- may have swayed public support for both questions, he said.

"The president's endorsement in May had an impact in terms of putting the issue on the radar," said Marylanders for Marriage Equality spokesman Kevin Nix.

Del. Neil Parrott, R-Washington County, a driving force in getting both issues on the ballot, cautioned that polls don't tell the whole story. "A lot more information is going to come out," he said. "It's going to get closer and closer."

The virtual tie the poll shows on gambling makes forecasting difficult for those following the fight. The big takeaway, according to Trevor Parry-Giles, a political communication professor at the University of Maryland, College Park, could be that the massive amounts of money that gambling companies Penn National Gaming and MGM Resorts International are throwing into advertising aren't doing much to sway public opinion.

"You'd be hard-pressed to say that the advertising is having a big effect either way," said Parry-Giles. "Maybe the evenness of the advertising is reflected in the polls."

Gonzales noted the gap between registered Democrats and black voters on gambling expansion. Only 31 percent of African-Americans said they would vote for gambling expansion, compared with 51 percent of Democrats, according to the poll.

"That really is part of what the proponents of Question 7 are going to have to grapple with in the coming weeks," Gonzales said.

The poll was conducted by phone among 813 registered voters in Maryland.

mconnolly@washingtonexaminer.com

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