August 19, 2022

Ten years of the Goucher College Poll

As the poll celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, Mileah Kromer, director of the Sarah T. Hughes Center for Politics at Goucher, discusses the importance of state politics, the impact of Judge Sarah T. Hughes, and the popularity of Old Bay seasoning.

  • Mileah Kromer

How has the Goucher College Poll evolved over the past decade?

The Goucher College Poll has grown from a good idea into a staple of the state’s political coverage. Each poll now gets full statewide coverage and is included in nearly every media outlet in the Baltimore and Washington, DC, region. State lawmakers and politicos of all stripes stay up until midnight—when we release our results—to read the results of the poll. Gov. Larry Hogan’s communications team includes the results in his daily briefings.

Which question’s results have garnered the most response/feedback over the years?

Gov. Larry Hogan’s approval rating always sparks conversation. A Republican governor of a heavily Democratic state consistently earning approval ratings in the mid-60s to lower-70s is something of a political novelty in our polarized political environment—so much so that I wrote a book about it.

The legalization of recreational cannabis is another issue we’ve asked Marylanders to weigh in on frequently over the last decade. Pro-legalization is now a solidly majority opinion. We’ll get to see how closely these attitudes translate at the ballot box this November!

What people—particularly the folks who pay close attention to politics—really go nuts for is horserace polling [election coverage]. If it wasn’t for public polls like ours, the public would never get an objective snapshot of the state of the race. I think our policy polling is our most important contribution, but the horserace makes it exciting.

What has been your favorite question from the past 10 years?

Just to be upfront, my favorite question is not our most important question. A couple of years ago, I ran favorability ratings on Old Bay Seasoning. To the delight of everyone and surprise of absolutely no one, 83% of residents held a favorable opinion of the delicious mix of crushed red pepper flakes, black pepper, celery salt, and paprika.

What do you think Judge Sarah T. Hughes, Class of 1917, who created an endowment at the college, would think of the work of the Goucher College Poll?

I think she’d be incredibly proud. Judge Hughes wanted her gift to the college to fund “practical training and education in government and politics.” That is what I’ve done with the Hughes Center through the Goucher College Poll and the other politically themed programming I’ve executed over the last 10 years.

The Goucher College Poll gets a lot of the glory. But the Hughes Center has hosted events with the governor and lieutenant governor, state comptroller, Maryland attorney general, two Baltimore City mayors, the Baltimore County executive, state legislators, candidates for governor, influential lobbyists, and a ton of important statewide political players. Most importantly, students were the ones who ran these events.

I also think that Judge Hughes would be glad to see a woman running the center that bears her name. She was a feminist and a trailblazer for women in politics. I feel honored to play a role in upholding her legacy as one of Goucher’s most storied alums.

How is the Goucher College Poll used in your teaching?

It is used both directly and indirectly in my teaching. I teach a course on survey research methods. Students in this course learn about questionnaire construction by researching and designing the Goucher College Poll instruments. It’s a true learn-by-doing experience.

But the Goucher College Poll is used in my teaching in a way that isn’t as obvious. Engaging in the state’s politics has resulted in me making a lot of professional connections. I’ve turned those connections into a list of high-profile guest speakers for my classes—and the students really benefit from it.

Looking ahead at next 10 years, what do you envision for the Goucher College Poll?

I want to continue to be primarily a poll that focuses on the politics and policy preferences of Marylanders. I think quality, state-level polling is important, and maintaining our reputation in the state is a long-term goal.

With some national omnibus polling options now available, it would also be great to do some national polling on issues relevant to Goucher’s mission and values.

I’d also like to see the Goucher College Poll leveraged as a recruitment tool for Goucher College. I want students interested in studying state politics, polling, and policy to come to Goucher and work for the Goucher College Poll.