AUGUSTA – Republican gubernatorial candidate Paul LePage is back on top in Maine’s race for the Blaine House, but the competition remains close, according to the latest Maine Poll released Wednesday.
LePage received support from 32 percent of respondents, Democrat Libby Mitchell received 26 percent and independent Eliot Cutler received 11 percent, according to the survey by Portland-based Critical Insights, commissioned by MaineToday Media.
Independent Shawn Moody received support from 5 percent of respondents, independent Kevin Scott received 1 percent and 26 percent were undecided.
A similar poll released two weeks ago showed Mitchell with 30 percent, LePage at 29 percent and Cutler at 11 percent, with 26 percent of respondents undecided. The variation between the two polls is within the margin of error for each of the candidates.
Though about one in four voters said they were undecided, further prompting by the interviewers led more to commit their support.
“For those who are undecided or not sure, we ask, ‘Which candidate are you leaning toward?’ … (In) all but 18 percent of those cases, people were leaning in a particular direction, so we captured that,” said MaryEllen FitzGerald, president and founder of Critical Insights.
Results that include data from voters who initially say they are undecided and those who immediately express a preference are called “the aggregate.” FitzGerald said that, in her experience, the aggregate numbers are the most accurate.
The latest Maine Poll aggregate shows LePage with 34 percent, Mitchell with 29 percent, Cutler with 13 percent, Moody with 6 percent, Scott with 1 percent and 18 percent undecided.
“Based on having done this for 15 or 20 years, I can tell you that if they are leaning, they are going to do it that way, unless there’s a major incident,” FitzGerald said.
Another poll, released Wednesday by Rasmussen Reports, shows LePage leading Mitchell, with far fewer undecided voters.
LePage had support from 35 percent of respondents, Mitchell was at 32 percent and Cutler had 21 percent, according to the automated poll, which did not ask respondents about Moody or Scott. About 6 percent of respondents were undecided.
The previous Rasmussen poll showed LePage at 45 percent and Mitchell at 27 percent.
The new poll, which surveyed 500 likely Maine voters, was done Tuesday and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.
Brent Littlefield, a consultant with the LePage campaign, said it is pleased with the results but will continue to work hard.
“We know that Paul’s message of having a proven record of creating jobs is resonating, but we know the only poll that counts is the one on Election Day,” he said.
Jesse Connolly, campaign manager for Mitchell, said the polling once again shows that the race is between Mitchell and LePage.
“Not much has changed since The Maine Poll was released last time,” he said. “I think people are understanding that there’s a stark difference between a Paul LePage administration and that of the Libby Mitchell administration.”
Too much attention is being paid to polling, said Ted O’Meara, campaign manager for Cutler.
“Everybody is far too obsessed with polls and (they are) not spending enough time focusing on the candidates and their qualifications and the plans they are putting forth for Maine people — none of the polls were right in the primaries,” O’Meara said. “That said, obviously we feel the Rasmussen poll reflects more what Eliot has been experiencing over the last few weeks on the campaign trail. We really have felt a shift toward him as people have begun to pay more attention.”
According to The Maine Poll, support for Mitchell and Cutler is solidifying, but they still trail LePage.
This poll and the previous poll showed that about 76 percent of LePage supporters would “definitely” vote for him. About 62 percent of Mitchell’s supporters now say the same, compared with about 58 percent last time. And about 44 percent of Cutler supporters say they are definite, versus 34 percent previously.
LePage’s support is strongest in northern and central Maine. He also leads Mitchell in southern Maine. She has a 1-point edge among voters along the coast, according to The Maine Poll.
MaineToday Media State House Writer Rebekah Metzler can be contacted at 620-7016 or at: firstname.lastname@example.org