October 10, 2010

Political poll sees shift in numbers

The survey for a conservative website finds a narrowing race in the 1st District, and a virtual tie among gubernatorial front-runners.

By Rebekah Metzler rmetzler@mainetoday.com
MaineToday Media State House Writer

AUGUSTA - A new poll commissioned by a conservative website shows Republican Dean Scontras closing the gap with Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree in the race for Maine's 1st District congressional seat.

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Rep. Chellie Pingree, Democratic incumbent

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Dean Scontras, Republican challenger

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Paul LePage    29.6%
Libby Mitchell    28.7%
Eliot Cutler     11.1%
Shawn Moody    4.9%
Kevin Scott    1.6%
Undecided    24.1%

THE POLL, commissioned by the conservative Pine Tree Politics website, was conducted by the Maine Center for Public Opinion, or MECPO, a political research and marketing firm based in Portland.

THE SURVEY, conducted from Oct. 4 through Oct. 7, included interviews with 679 likely voters. The margin of error is 3.76 percentage points.


THIS WEEK: The latest results of The Maine Poll are expected to be published Thursday in The Portland Press Herald, Kennebec Journal and Waterville Sentinel.

The results posted on the political blog Pine Tree Politics also show Republican gubernatorial nominee Paul LePage and Democrat Libby Mitchell virtually tied in the race for the Blaine House.

Some experts expressed reservations about the accuracy of the poll, which sampled a disproportionate number of Republicans to account for an anticipated "enthusiasm gap," which could influence the turnout of GOP voters.

Election Day is Nov. 2, just over three weeks away.

The poll shows Pingree leading Scontras 46 percent to 38 percent, with about 16 percent of respondents undecided. The Maine Center for Public Opinion, a Portland-based firm, conducted the survey.

The sample size was 346 in the 1st Congressional District and 679 statewide, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.76 percentage points, according to Pine Tree Politics. The poll took place Oct. 4 through Oct. 7.

The statewide poll showed LePage leading the five-candidate gubernatorial field with about 30 percent of respondents to Mitchell's 29 percent. Independent candidate Eliot Cutler had support from about 11 percent of respondents, independent Shawn Moody had about 5 percent and independent Kevin Scott had about 2 percent.

About 24 percent of respondents in the poll were still undecided in the gubernatorial race.

Matt Gagnon, a Republican who works for the National Republican Senatorial Committee and runs the Pine Tree Politics blog, paid for the poll along with two colleagues at the website.

The results for the gubernatorial race are very similar to the results of a poll taken two weeks ago by Critical Insights and sponsored by MaineToday Media, which publishes The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram, Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel daily newspapers, the weekly Coastal Journal in Bath and their respective websites.

However, the new results for the 1st District show a 12-point boost for Scontras and an 8-point drop for Pingree.

"Certainly we are encouraged by what appears to be a closing gap," Scontras said. "You can never put a ton of credence into any (poll), but certainly we are encouraged by this one."

Scontras said that he's observed a strong anti-incumbency sentiment from voters around the district, which mirrors national trends.

"I don't know how pro-Scontras it is, as it is anti-incumbency," he said. "So let's not get confused with, 'My message is so great, I'm closing a 20-point gap.' This is, as anyone will tell you, this is as bizarre a year as anyone's ever seen."

Willy Ritch, spokesman for the Pingree campaign, said the only poll that matters is on Election Day.

"I'd say this poll is inconsistent with every other poll we've seen, but it's not surprising that a poll conducted for a conservative website paints a rosier picture for a conservative candidate," he said. "Regardless of what any of the polls show, Chellie continues to work hard every day."

The poll, only the second for Mark Smith at the Maine Center for Public Opinion, used unusual methodology to try to reflect the likely Republican enthusiasm gap in the upcoming election.

"I wanted him to capture what a likely voter is really going to be this year," said Gagnon, who has done contract work with both Scontras and Jason Levesque, the Republican running in Maine's 2nd Congressional District.

"(Smith) looked at the primary, he looked at the 2009 referendum vote and then some previous election cycles as well, and came up with a formula that I think came out with a very good indication of who is actually going to be coming out to vote," Gagnon said.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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Paul LePage

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Eliot Cutler

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Libby Mitchell

Shawn Moody,  Eliot Cutler, Paul LePage, Kevin Scott, Libby Mitchell
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Kevin Scott

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