City Desk

Will Black Turnout Matter in the Slots Vote?

In the days leading up to the election, conventional wisdom has dictated that Maryland slots are pretty much a done deal—a poll conducted by the Washington Post last month found that 62 percent of likely voters support the proposed amendment to the state constitution. But there's a some confusion about how much support slots has. To wit:

Baltimore Business Journal's poll put the breakdown at 50 percent for, 45 percent against.

A survey by an Annapolis-based polling firm in September put it at 49 percent for, 43 against.

On Sunday the Washington Times reported on a Zogby poll that put it at 45 percent for, 48 against.

There are good reasons not to give that last poll a lot of weight. For one thing, it was sponsored by an anti-slots group, StopSlotsMaryland (following the lead of a poll sponsored by a pro-slots group that called a blowout in its favor). Also, it was a Zogby Interactive poll, which nobody trusts. But the Times story does bring up an interesting potential wrinkle:

Critics of Internet polling have questioned its track record, but slots opponents say this poll likely underplays the "Obama" effect, which would result in a larger turnout among black voters in Maryland.

"We think that bounce, or that buoyancy favors opposition to slots," said Shawnta Walcott, former communications director for Zogby Polling.

If you take the Post poll at face value, Walcott may have a point—67 percent of likely white voters in that poll support slots, versus 54 percent of likely black votes. So if black turnout is anything like Walcott suggests, slots still win—just by a much narrower margin than the Post expected.

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