Hillary Clinton has opened up a bigger lead over Donald Trump among Maine voters and has overtaken him even in Maine’s rural and conservative 2nd Congressional District, according to a new Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram poll.
The poll found that Clinton has opened up a double-digit lead statewide in the race for president, with 48 percent of respondents saying they will vote for the Democratic former secretary of state and 37 percent saying the Republican billionaire businessman will have their vote.
The poll, conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center from Oct. 20 to Oct. 25, surveyed 670 likely voters by landline and cellular telephone and has a statewide margin of error of 3.8 percent.
The results also suggest Clinton has surged in the 2nd District, where Trump previously led by double digits. The latest results show Clinton ahead in that district by 43 percent to Trump’s 40 percent. Clinton’s lead is within the poll’s margin of error, but her campaign appears to have made up significant ground since late September, when Trump was leading Clinton in the 2nd District by 15 points.
Trump’s slump in Maine mirrors his decline in national polling. On Friday an average of the most recent national polls showed Clinton 5.2 points ahead of Trump, according to RealClearPolitics.com.
Andrew Smith, director of the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, said the latest results seem to show a growing cohesion among Democrats that has not been replicated by Republicans. Smith said Clinton’s strengthened support is not surprising in a state that has ultimately settled on the Democratic nominee for six presidential elections in a row.
He said even in Maine’s 2nd District, momentum appears to have swung toward the Democrat, narrowing the chance that Maine, for the first time in modern political history, would split its Electoral College votes. Maine is one of only two states that splits its Electoral College votes, with one vote going to the winner of each congressional district and two votes going to the statewide winner.
Results by district
Some of Trump’s heavy emphasis on Maine, especially the 2nd District, has been attributed to hopes he might peel off that vote. Smith said he’s plotted possible pathways for a Trump victory that could come down to a single Electoral College vote. But with just nine days to the election, Democratic voters appear to have turned the corner on Trump in Maine.
“It may still be a Republican district, but it’s still going to be impacted by the overall partisan turnout in the state and in this case what we are seeing is the Democrats, as we get closer to the election, have decided they are going to come out and vote,” Smith said.
POLL PRECEDED LATE-WEEK NEWS STORIES
Democrats consistently outnumber Republicans in Maine. Recent voter registration numbers this year showed Democrats enrolled 16,000 new members compared to just 4,000 new Republicans.
Smith said younger Democratic voters, those who early on were supporting Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, are also now committing to Clinton, under the realization that doing otherwise could result in a Trump presidency.
Trump was last in Maine on Friday, when he appeared at a Christian school in Lisbon, the neighboring town to the 2nd District’s largest city, Lewiston. It was his second visit to Maine this month and followed two other visits by family members.
“Trump’s support has remained kind of flat and it’s Democratic support that we are seeing increasing, which is not surprising – this is a state that’s a Democratic state,” Smith said. “And those younger voters, the Bernie Sanders voters, who didn’t like Clinton so much, they are coming around now.”
The poll was conducted before the release Wednesday of hacked emails from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta by WikiLeaks. It also preceded Friday’s announcement by the FBI that during its ongoing investigation of former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner of New York, it had discovered additional emails that “appear to be pertinent to the Clinton investigation,” which focused on the candidate’s use of a private email server.
Weiner, the estranged husband of a top Clinton aide, Huma Abedin, is being investigated for explicit messages sent to a 15-year-old girl in North Carolina.
The latest Maine Sunday Telegram poll also suggests that Democrat Emily Cain, a former state senator from Orono, is gaining steam against incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin in the race for Maine’s 2nd Congressional District seat. Like Clinton, Cain has made up the double-digit deficit she faced in September and now appears to be in a dead heat with Poliquin, as 43 percent of voters said they would pick her compared to 42 percent who said they are going with the incumbent.
In southern Maine’s more urban and liberal 1st Congressional District, incumbent Democrat U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree appears to be heading for a re-election victory, with 59 percent of voters supporting her compared to just 24 percent who say they will vote for her Republican challenger, Mark Holbrook.
Maine’s 1st District also appears to be a runaway train for Clinton as well, as she holds a commanding 20-point advantage, leading Trump 54 percent to 34 percent.
Statewide, about 71 percent of voters say they know whom they are voting for, another 13 percent say they are leaning toward one candidate or another, and 17 percent say they still haven’t decided.
DIVERGENT VIEWS AMONG SUPPORTERS
Support for both the Green Party’s Jill Stein and the Libertarian Party’s Gary Johnson also appears to have softened since September, with only 3 percent of voters picking Stein and 5 percent picking Johnson.
Tom Raymond, a 73-year-old retired civil engineer from Falmouth, has already cast his ballot for Trump. Raymond said Trump appeals to him because he’s an outsider like Maine’s unvarnished Republican Gov. Paul LePage, also a Trump supporter.
“I think he is offering us much of the same that Paul LePage does, in that he’s going to represent responsibility in Congress,” Raymond said, explaining that he believes Trump will hold Congress accountable. Raymond said he doesn’t put a lot of confidence in polling and is watching the race closely.
One of Raymond’s top reasons for supporting Trump – because he reminds him of LePage – is exactly why Juanita Solomon, 72, of Lincoln says she will be voting for Clinton.
“It’s the best of two evils,” Solomon said. It’s a view that also reflects how unpopular both Clinton and Trump remain among voters in Maine, with 50 percent saying they have an unfavorable opinion of Clinton while 62 percent say they have an unfavorable view of Trump.
Both candidates are better liked by members of their own political party, but Clinton leads Trump in that category as well, with 65 percent of Democrats saying they hold a favorable opinion of Clinton and only 42 percent of Republicans saying they have a favorable opinion of Trump.
Solomon said she doesn’t always vote for Democrats, and if there was “an independent in the race with a voice, I would probably vote for them.” But she said Trump lost her when she heard him speak about Social Security like it was welfare.
“I don’t think he’s going to do anything for me,” said Solomon, who retired after working 30 years in the carnival concessions business traveling around New England fairs.
Solomon’s views on Trump are also reflective of those shared by a majority of Maine women – mirroring national trends – with 56 percent of female voters statewide saying they will vote for Clinton compared to just 29 percent who will vote for Trump.
Trump has stronger support with male voters in Maine than Clinton, with 45 percent of men saying they will vote for him compared to just 39 percent who say they favor Clinton.
Solomon said Clinton will be getting her vote. “She’s going to help this country way more than him,” she said. “If he gets in, we are going to be in a bad, bad war.”
Scott Thistle can be contacted at 791-6330 or at: