Former Gov. Angus King holds a 12-percentage-point lead in Maine’s U.S. Senate race, according to poll results released Thursday.
The poll by Rasmussen Reports, a national public opinion pollster, says 45 percent of likely voters support King, 33 percent support Republican Charlie Summers and 14 percent support Democrat Cynthia Dill.
One percent of the voters surveyed said they prefer some other candidate and 7 percent are undecided, according to Rasmussen.
The poll is roughly in line with two released earlier this month, showing King’s lead at 8 percentage points and 15.6 points.
The independent candidate’s lead in the polls was nearly 30 points in June, before pro-Republican groups launched a nearly $2 million television ad campaign criticizing King for his record as governor and his later experience as a wind farm developer.
Rasmussen surveyed 500 likely Maine voters Tuesday with automated phone calls. The poll has a margin of error of 4.5 percentage points. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is done by Pulse Opinion Research.
All three polls released this month have used automated phone calls and have not reached cellphone users. Rasmussen includes targeted Internet surveys to try to reach people who don’t have landlines, it says.
Ron Schmidt, associate professor of political science at the University of Southern Maine, said, “It looks to me like we are where conventional wisdom suggests we are: King with a sizable lead, Summers’ numbers moving up and Dill moving up more slowly.”
Schmidt said the lack of cellphone users in all three polls is a concern for him, although “King’s lead is so significant it might not matter much.”
Despite the significant lead in polls, King’s shrinking margin prompted criticism of the campaign for not fighting back against negative ads. It also prompted a more aggressive tone in King’s news releases and public statements.
The King campaign called on television stations Monday to stop airing an ad that claimed he made millions of dollars in the wind power industry, saying his profits from five years in the business totaled $212,000.
The tighter race immediately appeared to draw more outside money into the anti-King advertising campaign.
One Republican-backed ad even touted Dill in an effort to drive voters to the Democrat and split the Democratic vote. It may have worked.
The Rasmussen poll shows King’s support among Democrats is now down to 53 percent, from more than 60 percent in polls done in June, and Dill’s Democratic support up to 29 percent, from less than 20 percent in June.
Besides showing King with a 12-point lead, the new poll shows that King continues to have higher favorability ratings than his two top rivals.
Fifty-six percent said they have a favorable opinion of King, compared with 43 percent for Summers and 36 percent for Dill.
Thirty-eight percent have an unfavorable opinion of King, compared with 33 percent for Summers and 46 percent for Dill.
The Rasmussen poll also asked likely voters whether they approve of Republican Gov. Paul LePage.
LePage is not on the November ballot, but voters’ opinions about the governor may help determine which party wins the majority of seats in the state Legislature.
The poll says 47 percent of Maine voters at least somewhat approve of the job LePage is doing, and 51 percent disapprove. The numbers include 24 percent who say they strongly approve and 38 percent who say they strongly disapprove.
Rasmussen Reports is considered to lean slightly toward Republicans, according to Nate Silver, a polling analyst who writes for The New York Times. It’s not clear whether that is a factor in its poll on Maine’s three-way Senate race.
Another national pollster, Public Policy Polling, is considered to lean slightly toward Democrats but its poll this month actually measured more support for Republican Summers — 35 percent — than Rasmussen’s did.
Staff Writer John Richardson can be contacted at 791-6324 or at: