A new independent poll on the Maine governor’s race shows little movement from previous surveys, with Republican Paul LePage maintaining a sizable lead over his closest competitor, Democrat Elizabeth “Libby” Mitchell.
The Maine Poll has 38 percent of respondents saying they will vote for LePage, followed by 25 percent for Mitchell. Unenrolled candidates Eliot Cutler, Shawn Moody and Kevin Scott follow with 11 percent, 4 percent and 1 percent, respectively.
There is at least one notable difference from past polls: 21 percent of those surveyed said they didn’t know who they’d vote for.
“That suggests a good number of people who are out there to be grabbed,” said Michael Franz, a professor of government at Bowdoin College.
The poll also details voters’ biggest concerns and why they’re supporting certain candidates, giving some insight into the electorate’s overall mindset.
The survey of 603 registered Maine voters was taken Monday, and asked who they would vote for if the election “were to be held tomorrow.” The poll had a margin of error of 4 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level. That means that if the poll were repeated 100 times, in 95 cases the results would be within 4 percentage points of those reported.
Critical Insights conducted the poll for MaineToday Media, which publishes The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram, Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel daily and Sunday newspapers, the weekly Coastal Journal in Bath and their respective websites. The media company plans to sponsor an additional three polls of the electorate.
Critical Insights pollster Mary Ellen Fitzgerald said the fact that 21 percent of voters said they were undecided was the most striking aspect of the poll, calling it a “stinging indictment of the traditional parties.”
There’s a high level of voter discontent right now, with people very unhappy about the lack of jobs and the overall state of the economy, she said.
According to the poll, 30 percent of those surveyed listed the lack of jobs/unemployment as their top concern, followed by the “bad economy” at 24 percent and taxes at 12 percent.
Voters have had an opportunity to hear from gubernatorial candidates who would be in a position to effect change, she said, and one in five have not yet made a decision.
“I think it sort of augurs better for the independents, even though the independents didn’t fare well in this poll,” Fitzgerald said. “I expect this will change drastically over the next few weeks.”
University of Maine political scientist Mark Brewer said 21 percent undecided is a “relatively big number six and a half weeks out.”
“There’s a lot of room for things to move here still,” said Brewer. “I think that 21 percent really speaks to that.”
And there may be even more voters out there looking around, he said. According to the poll, 69 percent of LePage’s supporters are “definitely” voting for LePage, compared with 29 percent saying they “probably” will.
The pollsters found that 54 percent of Mitchell’s supporters were definites, and 44 percent were probably supporting her.
And 25 percent of Cutler’s supporters were definite, compared with 74 percent who would probably vote for him.
While LePage’s supporters are “rock solid,” Brewer said, support for Mitchell and Cutler is “not very solid.” Those voters are mobile, he said.
“Mitchell’s support is not as enthusiastic as Paul LePage’s support,” agreed Franz. “The good news for her is Eliot Cutler’s support seems softer.”
Those numbers speak to the “enthusiasm gap” that’s been noted nationwide, he said, with high energy in the GOP, and less enthusiasm in Democratic circles.
LePage, Mitchell and Cutler may find information they can use in the poll results, said Franz.
The poll was taken Monday, the same day that LePage tussled with media over tax questions and his wife’s Maine residency status. So the poll doesn’t necessarily reflect that latest kerfuffle. But, Franz noted, the race has been hot through the summer, and LePage has been hit hard by other candidates and the Democratic Party, as well.
Even with that, his numbers have been constant, said Franz.
“He’s not moving up, he’s not moving down, but that base of support is pretty stable,” said Franz. “It may be all he needs to win the election.”
Mitchell could target Cutler’s voters, said Franz, making the case that voting for the unenrolled candidate would help LePage.
The polls should tell Cutler that the “independent” message isn’t hitting home with voters.
“You really have less and less time with each passing day to make a dent in people’s mind,” said Franz. “And it just doesn’t seem to be working.”
The relative space between candidates didn’t shift much in this poll, compared with one released Sept. 8 by Public Policy Polling. The earlier poll had Lepage 14 points ahead of Mitchell, and Mitchell 18 points ahead of Cutler.
The Maine Poll saw LePage with a 13 point lead over Mitchell. Mitchell was 14 points ahead of Cutler.
The earlier poll had an undecided pool of 12 percent. LePage led the field with 43 percent, followed by Mitchell at 29 percent, Cutler at 11 percent, Moody at 5 percent and Scott at 1 percent.
Staff Writer Matt Wickenheiser can be contacted at 791-6316 or at: