By Rob Velazquez
I’d like to get one thing out of the way: Poll numbers don’t matter anymore. If they were the clairvoyant tools we expected them to be, we would not be seeing a new wave of political candidates on both the right and left enjoying their position as leaders on their respective ballots. No poll saw Andrew Gillum winning the Florida primary. No poll saw Ayanna Pressley beating her incumbent opponent in the Massachusetts 7th congressional district. Lastly, if polls were anywhere near reliable, President Hillary Clinton would be in the White House and Ruth Bader Ginsberg might be able to take a day off from the gym to enjoy a cheeseburger.
A recent Goucher poll shows a significant 22-point lead in the Maryland Gubernatorial race in favor of Governor Larry Hogan. If we were to take this poll on face value, we’d see that Hogan should be fairly comfortable in the November general election. But, underneath the major headline, there are hints that the Ben Jealous campaign has a lot of ground to sway voters and pick up some undecided voters along the way.
The Goucher Poll sample does not include voter file data that shows 30% of the electorate in the 2018 Democratic primary in Maryland voted in 2016 but did not vote in 2014.
Similarly, pollsters had flawed voter turnout numbers in 2014 when they had then candidate Hogan losing by 17-points in October 2014.
The Goucher Poll shows that voters agree with Jealous’ message, even if they don’t know it yet. 47% of total voters and 54% of Democrats polled were in favor of a candidate that brought about change. According to the poll, 88% of Democrats show a support for a $15 minimum wage, 69% of Democrats are in favor of Medicare-for-All, and 66% support the legalization of marijuana. All key issues for the Jealous campaign. The 2014 Gubernatorial race had only 14 Democratic organizers statewide, so far in 2018 the Jealous campaign and the Maryland Democratic Party have 49 organizers in 23 offices statewide. They are recruiting canvassers in Baltimore city to spread their message and have weekend volunteer turnouts of over 100 individuals dedicated to the campaign message. The strength of the Jealous campaign has been to meet voters where they are with a message that resonates with everyday Maryland life.
The Goucher Poll took place just as the Jealous campaign began airing their first television ads, so there is no telling how their ad campaign will affect these numbers. But the fact remains, the Jealous campaign has tapped into the collective consciousness of the Maryland Democratic party. Kevin Harris, Senior Advisor to the Jealous campaign stated “It shows more than a third of the electorate has yet to make up their minds, showing that we have tremendous room for growth before any of our advertising spending has taken place. It shows our message is the winning message, with voters looking for change rooted the bold progressive planks of Ben’s vision. In the next seven weeks, we will win over the voters we need for victory by communicating that winning message through Election Day.”
The Goucher poll doesn’t explain how Hogan will win, instead it explains how Ben Jealous’ message resonates with the electorate. This is by no means a claim that Jealous will win; it is stating that his campaign stands a much stronger than the Goucher poll would lead the public to believe. If they continue to grow an organic grassroots campaign and catch a few voters with television ads in this final stretch, we may just see on more poll become unreliable.