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Ballot Stuffing

Poll Positions

Posted 9/3/2003

Though Mayor Martin O'Malley's campaign insists that 64 percent of the city's African-American voters approve of his performance, a number his campaign pollsters touted in May, that high approval rating should not be mistaken for unconditional love from the African-American community. O'Malley's relationship with blacks is more on-again/off-again and not exactly steadfast, according to a forthcoming survey conducted by the Institute for Urban Research at Northeast Baltimore's historically black Morgan State University. The poll, which is scheduled to be released this week, compared the approval ratings of the two leading mayoral candidates: O'Malley and challenger Walbrook High School Principal Andrey Bundley.

"Blacks seem overwhelmingly in favor of O'Malley," says Raymond Winbush, director of the Institute for Urban Research. "But the big qualifier is that it's very soft support."

Winbush says the institute polled about 130 adults who voted in the 1999 citywide election. He says the institute wanted to poll those most likely to vote again in the primary next month. The sample, he says, mirrors the city's racial demographics, as about 67 percent of those participating in the poll are black.

So far, about 48 percent of the blacks polled in the survey said they believe O'Malley has the best chances of winning, especially when compared to his chief opponent, Bundley. Nine percent of black respondents said, on the other hand, that they believe Bundley has the better chance of winning.

To date, only about 20 percent of likely black voters in the survey say they'll vote for O'Malley, however. Nine percent are leaning toward Bundley, whereas the remaining 71 percent are wavering between the two or are undecided.

The most revealing part of the survey, Winbush says, is that when those polled gave their opinion on the mayor, the comments were not wholly positive.

For instance, one person described O'Malley as "too outspoken and a poor listener." Another black voter told pollsters that O'Malley seems to be "committed," and that he has "done a good job so far." However, many respondents qualified their statements by indicating that O'Malley "could do more than what he is doing."

What the responses may mean, Winbush says, is that black voters want somebody better than both candidates: Blacks aren't entirely satisfied with incumbent O'Malley, but they're not comfortable voting for newcomer Bundley. Winbush says he believes that the black vote for Bundley will likely be a protest vote against O'Malley, even though most blacks don't think the challenger will win. "I don't think O'Malley wants to acknowledge that," Winbush says.

Black voters, Winbush surmises, would more likely support a "strong African-American candidate" over O'Malley if there were a strong candidate in the running.

When asked about the poll, Bundley said he found the results encouraging. He says he thinks the undecided 71 percent are probably wavering because they're disenchanted with the current mayor. All his campaign has to do, Bundley says, is woo this undecided majority to win the race.

O'Malley's camp had little comment. "We are campaigning aggressively to communicate this administration's accomplishments and the mayor's plans to make every Baltimore neighborhood an even better place to live," campaign spokeswoman Kimberlin Love said.

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