WASHINGTON – Renee Vill thought she knew who her congressman was.
“Glendening, no … yeah, Glendening,” said Vill, 28, a market research surveyor from Frederick.
Uh, not quite. Gov. Parris Glendening is in the state capital not the U.S. Capitol.
John Gaines, 61, of Davidsonville guessed it was some guy named “O’Neill.”
Maureen Grove, 28, of Hagerstown knew exactly who her congressman was.
“Yeah, he’s that guy, right?”
When Capital News Service asked 150 voters around the state to name their congressman, only 59 could provide the right answer.
The rate was slightly better among the 107 who said they planned to vote in the upcoming elections — 53 of them could correctly name the person who represents their district.
As bad as those figures look, one pollster said name recognition is probably even worse elsewhere.
“Our surveys show that congressmen in Maryland have above- average name recognition and that they are tough to beat because they establish personal relationships with the constituents,” said Keith Haller, president of Potomac Survey Research.
“One reason is because they can go home to their districts every night as opposed to a congressman in California who can only go home twice a month,” he said.
Haller said a politician’s name recognition lessens as they move down the legislative food chain and that, in a less-than- competitive election season, the recognition diminishes further.
“As you go lower down the officeholder ranks, office names recognition lowers,” he said.
“It also depends on the member of Congress and the type of constituent outreach program,” Haller said. “It’s probably a sign that members don’t have much competition and are not running active campaigns, so their profile is not looming as large as compared to a governor or a president.”
Some Maryland voters were a little sheepish when caught on the question.
“I should know but I don’t,” said Therese Key, 38, a Davidsonville post office employee.
“It’s crazy but I just don’t know,” said postmaster Leo Howard, 51. “I don’t know half the people that are running.”
“I know him when I hear him,” said Frederick resident Ralph Sunday, 85, referring to Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Frederick.
Brandy Day-Cornett didn’t even try to guess.
“You’re asking the wrong person. I don’t know anything about politics,” she said.