Friday, May 24, 2013
AUGUSTA — Supporters of same-sex marriage have a lead of 11 percentage points over those who want to repeal the new state law, a poll released Monday shows.
However, campaigns for both sides on Question 1 say they expect nothing that lopsided when voters go to the polls one week from today.
''We've always said we think this is going to be a pretty close election,'' said Jesse Connolly, campaign manager for No on 1.
Question 1 on the Nov. 3 ballot asks voters if they want to repeal the state law that allows gay and lesbian couples to marry in Maine. It is one of seven ballot questions that voters will decide.
All campaigns review polls, but Connolly and Scott Fish, spokesman for Yes on 1, said they don't dwell on them.
''They all reflect it's a close race,'' Fish said. ''For Yes on 1 supporters, it's a call to vote.''
Monday's poll results were quite different from those released by a North Carolina firm last week.
That poll, which surveyed more than 1,000 likely voters, said the Question 1 race was in a 48-48 percent dead heat. Public Policy Polling, which uses automated telephone surveys, said 4 percent were undecided in the poll, which had a margin of error of 3 percentage points.
Monday's poll, by Pan Atlantic SMS Group of Portland, asked 400 likely voters how they planned to vote on the five major ballot questions.
On Question 1, 53 percent indicated they would vote ''no,'' 42 percent said they would vote ''yes'' and 6 percent were undecided.
The poll has a margin of error of 5 points. In some instances, it showed drastically different results from a poll released Oct. 14 by the same company.
For example, the earlier poll showed Question 2 -- a proposal to cut the excise tax -- led 48 percent to 46 percent. But Monday's results showed it trailing, 61 percent to 29 percent, with 10 percent undecided.
On Question 3, a proposal to repeal Maine's school district consolidation law, the earlier poll showed it leading 46 percent to 41 percent, but the latest numbers showed it trailing 45 percent to 39 percent.
And on the so-called Taxpayer Bill of Rights, Question 4, the results changed, from a 53 percent to 39 percent lead for the proposal, to 49 percent to 42 percent against it.
So what's a voter to think?
''If your side is winning, or your side is losing, you shouldn't take the poll as a reason not to turn out,'' said Jim Melcher, political science professor at the University of Maine at Farmington.
Melcher said voting on issues is very different from voting on candidates, because people can say from the early stages of a campaign that they are likely to vote for someone because of their political party.
Also, if it's a new issue for voters, it's harder to predict how people are going to vote.
''In Maine, people should be quite skeptical of polls,'' he said. ''There's been a history in recent years of volatility.''
Another factor this year is that fewer voters are likely to turn out because there isn't a presidential race. So even if they tell a pollster they are ''likely'' to vote, they may not.
Melcher said it's important to look at the margin of error and not jump to conclusions.
''The media are overly eager to say there's a statistically significant relationship,'' he said, ''when there isn't one.''
Patrick Murphy, president of Pan Atlantic, said it's important to remember that polls are ''a snapshot at a point in time.''
Fish said he was reminded of the adage that the only poll that counts happens on Election Day.
''The campaign,'' he said, ''is about the now and the future, with the goal of getting the majority of your voters to the polls Nov. 3.''
Connolly, who said public polling on gay marriage has been ''all over the map'' this election cycle, said he looks at polls and then gets back to work on the campaign.