Mainers’ opposition to a proposed ban on the use of bait, dogs or traps in bear hunting continues to grow, according to a new poll by the Maine Sunday Telegram/Portland Press Herald.
The poll, conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, showed 57 percent of voters oppose Question 1, compared to 36 percent who support it and 7 percent who remain undecided. The result follows a trend in two previous Telegram polls showing that Mainers have become more opposed to the ban as they learn more about it.
Opposition to the referendum has increased by 13 percentage points and support has dropped by 12 percentage points since the Telegram first polled the issue in June. The change coincides with Mainers’ increased knowledge of the issue. In June, only 18 percent of voters claimed to know a great deal about the referendum. According to the new poll, 64 percent of voters now take that position.
The campaign is marked by a fierce $3.8 million advertising campaign. Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting, the primary advocacy group for the referendum, has raised more than $1.4 million, 99 percent of which is from out-of-state donors. A coalition of groups opposing the measure has raised $2.4 million, at least 43 percent of which is from Maine donors.
The Telegram poll of 667 likely voters, conducted from Oct. 15-21, has a 3.8 percent margin of error.
The poll also surveyed the congressional races, two of which remain uncompetitive. The most competitive race is for the open seat in the 2nd Congressional District.
The race between Democratic state Sen. Emily Cain and Republican Bruce Poliquin is a statistical dead heat, with Poliquin at 41 percent and Cain at 40 percent, while independent Blaine Richardson is at 8 percent and 9 percent are undecided, according to the poll. The results are based on interviews with 291 likely voters, resulting in a margin of error of 5.5 percent.
The 1st Congressional District race is far less competitive. Incumbent Democrat Chellie Pingree leads Republican Issac Misiuk 57 percent to 19 percent while independent Richard Murphy has 10 percent. Thirteen percent of voters in the poll were undecided. Pingree is married to S. Donald Sussman, majority owner of MaineToday Media, which publishes the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram, the Kennebec Journal in Augusta and the Morning Sentinel in Waterville.
In the U.S. Senate race, Republican incumbent Susan Collins has a comfortable lead over Democratic challenger Shenna Bellows. Collins leads Bellows 65 percent to 30 percent while 4 percent are undecided.
Collins remains the most popular politician in Maine, according to the poll. Seventy percent said they have a favorable opinion of her, 19 percent unfavorable and 8 percent are neutral.
Bellows is still relatively unknown. Thirty percent of likely voters said they had a favorable opinion of her, 25 percent said unfavorable, 7 percent said they were neutral while 39 percent don’t know enough about her.
U.S. Sen. Angus King is the second most popular politician in Maine. Sixty-one percent said they have a favorable opinion of him, 23 percent said unfavorable, 8 percent said neutral and 7 percent said they didn’t know enough to say.
Pingree is also popular in the 1st District. Forty-three percent said they have a favorable opinion of her, 28 percent said unfavorable, 8 percent are neutral and 21 percent said they don’t know enough to say.
The Telegram also polled on a number of questions that could affect the election.
Forty-eight percent of respondents said Maine is on the right track, 44 percent said it’s on the wrong track and 8 percent don’t know. Sixty-eight percent of Republicans said the state is on the right track, 24 percent said wrong track and 8 percent said they don’t know. Thirty-six percent of Democrats said the state is on the right track, 57 percent said wrong track and 7 percent said they didn’t know.
In an open response question, voters said the most important problem in Maine continues to be jobs and the economy, an issue that’s increased in significance since September. Fifty percent of voters said jobs and the economy were the most important problem, a 14-point increase.
The support for tax subsidies for paper mills was spread nearly evenly across Republicans, Democrats and independents.