AUGUSTA – How we feel about Gov. Paul LePage and the job he’s been doing in his first 11 months as governor has been the topic of two recent polls.

One shows him surging in popularity.

The other? Not so much.

An October poll by Critical Insights showed the governor with 47 percent approval and 40 percent disapproval. That represented a 16 percentage point increase from what Critical Insights found in the spring.

Then last week, Public Policy Polling released numbers that show the governor’s approval ratings haven’t budged. They say 43 percent approve of the job he’s doing and 48 percent disapprove. Same as March.

So what’s the real story?

“I think that people are getting used to him as governor,” said Marvin Druker, political science professor at the University of Southern Maine, Lewiston-Auburn campus. “That might have been difficult at first.”

Druker said he believes a few more independents are probably supporting the governor now. And, if you consider he won with 38 percent of the vote, moving up to 43-47 percent approval doesn’t seem unrealistic.

“The people handling his PR are doing a better job of keeping him under control,” Druker said. “That reduces his controversy.”

Another thing to consider, Druker said, is the economy and upcoming state budget cuts. When the Legislature gets back in January, there are likely to be more headlines about cuts to programs.

“At that point, it becomes more difficult for the Legislature and the governor,” he said.

PPP, the North Carolina pollsters who lean Democratic, also gave voters a do-over option.

They asked: “If you could do last fall’s election for governor over again, would you vote for independent Eliot Cutler, Republican Paul LePage or Democrat Libby Mitchell?”

Their results?

Cutler: 43 percent

LePage: 38 percent

Mitchell: 16 percent

Not sure: 2 percent

IN OTHER POLLING NEWS …

Public Policy Polling asked voters how they feel about gay marriage, and reported results quite different from how people voted two years ago.

In 2009, Mainers rejected same-sex marriage 53-47 percent. A recent poll question that asks whether same-sex marriage should be legal or illegal shows 51 percent say legal, 42 percent say illegal and the rest are unsure.

Asked another way, 17 percent said they weren’t sure whether they favored allowing gay and lesbian couples to get married even if churches would be exempt from performing ceremonies. Forty-eight percent said they would support it, and 35 percent opposed it.

One thing to bear in mind with all polls regarding gay marriage (and other hot-button social issues) is that people sometimes lie to pollsters if they think they hold an unpopular view. Just before the 2009 vote, a Maine pollster predicted a win for gay marriage.

All this continues to be relevant as EqualityMaine gathers signatures to present to lawmakers early next year asking for another referendum vote on gay marriage in November 2012.

BILL BATTLES ON THE HORIZON

Last week, legislative leaders rejected about half of the 300 bills submitted to be considered during the session that begins in January.

Several Democrats are planning to come in later this month to fight to get their bills back in the hopper. Two examples:

Rep. Anne Graham, D-North Yarmouth, wants leaders to let her move forward with a bill that makes changes to the health insurance overhaul legislation passed earlier this year. Graham wants to give back to the state Bureau of Insurance the power to review proposed rate increases, even if they are below 10 percent. The legislation passed this year removes that requirement.

And Rep. Maeghan Maloney, D-Augusta, plans to appeal the rejection of her bill to create a separate court for veterans. The court would offer flexibility in dealing with problems specific to veterans, including post traumatic stress disorder, brain injuries, depression and alcohol dependency, according to a draft version of the bill.

Legislative leaders meet Nov. 17 to consider bill appeals.

RETHINKING THE BUDGET PROCESS

During a speech at Colby College last week, LePage said he wants to change the conversation in Augusta from one about taxing and spending to one about costs and benefits.

He touted “zero-based budgeting” – in which all state agencies must start from zero and build up – as one way to get better information.

“We actually don’t know in Augusta where the money is being spent,” he said. “I’ve spent 10 months trying to get an accurate number. I’m still looking to get a number that I can depend on for more than 24 hours.”