Public opinion survey on the November 2, 2010 ballot item to convene a state constitutional convention

On March 18, 2010, The Center for the Study of Local Issues at Anne Arundel Community College released its semi-annual public opinion survey (see pages 12 and 21).  The survey was sent to 640 randomly selected citizens aged 18 and above in Anne Arundel County, Maryland.  For the first time, the survey included the following question:

Every 20 years, the Maryland General Assembly is required to include on the ballot a question about holding a constitutional convention to revise the state?s constitution. Would you favor or oppose holding such a convention at this time?

The results were:

Favor: 44%
Oppose: 42%
Don’t know enough: 9%
No answer: 5%

In other words, a plurality but not a majority of voters supported a constitutional convention.  However, with a margin of error of 4%, it was a statistical dead heat.

Even more interesting was the cross tabulation including  ideology: 58% of liberals but only 40% of conservatives favored convening a state constitutional convention.  Moderates, the middle category, came in at 42%.  The results caught me by surprise because I would have thought that conservatives, who are in the minority in Maryland, would have been the strongest supporters.  Generally, it is members of the minority party who are the strongest supporters of democratic reform.  My only explanation for this result right now is that classical conservatives generally are more suspicious of government change than progressives, and the purpose of a state constitutional convention would be to change the status quo.

My guess is that once the special interests and incumbent party leaders–the two groups with the most to lose from convening a state constitutional convention–begin to publicly oppose a yes vote, these numbers could dramatically change.


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