Wednesday November 13, 2013 | 12:29 PM

 

WASHINGTON – Republican Sen. Susan Collins continues to hold a large lead among potential voters – including Democrats – as she heads into her 2014 reelection campaign, according to a new poll.

The Public Policy Polling survey is the first conducted of Maine voters since Shenna Bellows, the former executive director of the Maine Civil Liberties Union, entered Maine’s 2014 race as a Democrat.

Collins led Bellows 59 percent to 20 percent in PPP’s automated telephone survey of 964 Maine voters last weekend, with 22 percent undecided when asked about the match-up. Significantly, Bellows even trailed Collins by 14 percent among Democrats, underscoring the uphill battle the Manchester resident faces as she attempts to defeat the incumbent.

But PPP’s poll also made clear that relatively few people know Bellows, with 71 percent of respondents responding “not sure” to a question of whether they had a favorable or unfavorable opinion of her. Mainers’ knowledge of Bellows will undoubtedly increase as she intensifies her campaign.

Collins, by comparison, had an overall approval rating of 61 percent, which is up from 57 percent in PPP’s last poll taken in August. That appears to suggest Collins may be bucking the predicted backlash against Republicans nationally as the party bears more of the blame for the recent government shutdown and near-default . Collins played a high-profile role in jump-starting bipartisan negotiations to end the dual crises.

The overall poll had a margin of error of 3.2 percent and the Republican-specific results had a margin of error of 5.4 percent.

PPP is generally considered a Democratic polling firm, a fact that Republicans go to great lengths to point out when survey results are not in favor of their candidate.

That was clearly the case on Tuesday when the North Carolina-based firm released results from the same surveys showing Democratic Rep. Mike Michaud with a 3-point lead over Republican Gov. Paul LePage in the 2014 gubernatorial race. Independent Eliot Cutler polled at 15 percent in the race.

My colleague Steve Mistler did a nice job breaking down those poll results and the ensuring debate over PPP’s reliability, which you can see by clicking here.

I will also point out that PPP was fairly close in calling the outcome of Maine’s 2012 Senate race.

PPP’s final poll prior to Election Day 2012 predicted that independent Angus King would win with 50 percent of the vote compared to 36 percent for Republican Charlie Summers and 12 percent for Democrat Cynthia Dill. King received 51 percent, Summers got 30 percent and Dill picked up 13 percent.

Other findings in the PPP poll include:

  • Collins could still face a tougher haul against a primary opponent, with 48 percent of respondents saying they would vote for her in a primary and 44 percent who would prefer a more conservative candidate.
  • 54 percent of respondents had a favorable opinion of freshman Sen. Angus King, up from 44 percent during an early-2013 poll but down from 57 percent in PPP’s August survey.
  • In the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton leads in head-to-head match-ups with the following Republicans: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz
  • 72 percent believed the 2012 referendum legalizing same-sex marriage in Maine has had no impact on the state, compared to 15 percent who saw a positive effect and 13 percent who saw negative impacts.

 

 

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Kevin Miller is Washington bureau chief for the Portland Press Herald and MaineToday Media. He has worked as a journalist in Maine for 6 ½ years, covering the environment, politics and the State House. Before arriving in Maine, he wrote about politics, government and education for newspapers in Virginia and Maryland.
Kevin can be reached at 317-6256 or kmiller@mainetoday.com

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