Mike Michaud maintains a comfortable lead in the race for Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, according to a new poll.

On Thursday, the Maine People’s Resource Center released the results from its latest survey of Maine voters, which showed Michaud leading Republican challenger Kevin Raye, 56 percent to 37 percent. The results were similar to the center’s April poll, which showed Michaud leading 53 percent to 37 percent.

The three-point increase for Michaud could be partly explained by a slight decrease in undecided voters as the Nov. 6 election looms. In April, 10 percent of those polled were undecided, compared to 7 percent in the most recent study.

Michaud campaign spokesman Dan Cashman acknowledged the positive news Thursday but stressed the five-term incumbent isn’t planning to coast on the latest results.

“Polling is great, but we don’t put a lot of stock in it,” Cashman said. “It’s a long race between now and November and we want to make sure people know about Mike’s record, his successes as they go to the polls on Election Day.

“That said, we are confident that voters know what he’s done for Mainers during his time in Congress.”

Cashman cited Michaud’s work for veterans’ health care, small business, manufacturing and a recent stop at the New Balance factory in Norridgewock with U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk.

Raye’s campaign consultant Kathie Summers-Grice said the news is encouraging for the challenger, because the political affiliations of the people who were polled in the center’s survey are out of step with the makeup of voters in the 2nd District, particularly with independent voters.

The Maine People’s Resource Center, which is affiliated with the liberal advocacy group the Maine People’s Alliance, polled 410 registered voters in the 2nd District between Sept. 15 and 17; 41 percent were Democrats, 34 percent were Republicans and 24 percent were unenrolled or “other” voters. The 2nd District’s 450,000 registered voters are 30 percent Democrat, 29 percent Republican and 40 percent unenrolled or other, according to data from the Department of the Secretary of State.

“In Maine, independent voters are known as being ticket splitters,” she said. “To virtually exclude them from the poll and think the poll has any credibility? That’s a polling no-no.”

Mike Tipping, communications director for the Maine People’s Alliance and the Maine People’s Resource Center, said he disagrees with Summers-Grice’s assessment, saying pollsters are asked which party they identify with rather than how they are registered.

“Raye’s campaign doesn’t have much to stand on in this case,” he said. “No reputable national pollster weights by party ID.”

Tipping, who is also a columnist for the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel, said pollsters ask people which party they identify with rather than which party they’re registered with. People’s affiliations fluctuate, and he cited a recent article by the Pew Research Center — a national nonpartisan public opinion research organization — to back his assertion.

“While it would be easy to standardize the distribution of Democrats, Republicans and independents across all of these surveys, this would unquestionably be the wrong thing to do,” the Pew article states. “Particularly in an election cycle, the balance of party identification in surveys will ebb and flow with candidate fortunes, as it should, since the candidates themselves are the defining figureheads of those partisan labels. Thus there is no timely independent measure of the partisan balance that polls could use for a baseline adjustment.”

Summers-Grice said she doesn’t buy Tipping’s argument. She agrees that party affiliations fluctuate, but thinks the proportions should still reflect the numbers that appear in the polling booths.

“It’s preposterous,” she said. “It defies all logic.”

Earlier Thursday, Summers-Grice said it’s hard to quantify what’s important to independent voters at this stage in the race, but said Raye’s message as owner of a small business and support of business and agriculture is gaining traction.

“We’re right where we want to be,” she said. “We’ve said all along that Mike Michaud is vulnerable.”

The Portland-based Maine People’s Resource Center is a nonprofit organization with the goal of “teaching everyday people the skills to participate in the decision-making processes that affect their daily lives,” according to its website.

Ben McCanna — 861-9239

[email protected]