October 2, 2012

Poll Analysis: King still the front-runner, but lead erodes

A statewide survey also finds strong backing for same-sex marriage and a growing lead for Obama.

By John Richardson jrichardson@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a three-day series of stories drawing on the results of a statewide poll commissioned by the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram on the major candidates and issues on the Maine ballot Nov. 6.

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Michael Wingfield of Portland: “Gay or straight, we all have a right to marriage.”

Photos by John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

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Jennifer James of Shapleigh: “(Political attack ads are) awful. (The parties) just degrade each other. It doesn’t make either side look good."

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The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram poll was conducted by Critical Insights, a Portland-based opinion research firm.

It follows a similar poll conducted in June and was designed to measure trends in opinions and voter sentiments and track the rise and fall of candidates and campaigns. In both cases, the polls produced more than 100 pages of data tables which the Press Herald analyzed to produce articles, print and online graphics and to guide coverage of the elections.

For the latest poll, Critical Insights called 618 likely voters around the state from Sept. 12 through Sept. 16. It used random landlines and cellphones and conducted live personal interviews. An additional 100 women were polled to provide deeper data on women's perspectives on key issues.

The results were statistically weighted to reflect the demographics of the state's voting population. Results were weighted by gender, age, region of residence and political affiliation.

The poll has a margin of error of 4 percentage points for results based on the entire sample, with larger margins for subgroups such as independent voters or older voters.


TODAY: Key poll results in the election for president, the U.S. Senate, Congress and the same-sex marriage referendum.

MONDAY: The same-sex marriage poll results and returns from the 2009 repeal referendum suggest where the battlegrounds lie across Maine.

TUESDAY: Sharp distinctions that reflect “the two Maines” concept emerge from poll results in the 1st and 2nd congressional districts.

Angus King's popularity with voters has taken a clear hit, but the independent former governor still holds a commanding lead in the race to become Maine's next U.S. senator, according to a statewide poll conducted earlier this month for the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram.

King's lead dropped from nearly 30 percentage points in June to 22 points in September, according to the poll. While a sign that anti-King TV ads have worked, voters said in the poll and in follow-up interviews that they are not swayed by the ads. Many voters said they are simply annoyed.

The Critical Insights poll found that President Obama has expanded his lead in Maine as he has elsewhere, but that the state is going against the national grain when it comes to class politics. Obama's lead here is strongest among higher-income voters, while Republican Mitt Romney gets his strongest support from lower-income voters.

And the effort to legalize same-sex marriage in Maine is holding a strong lead in September, the poll found, a cushion that supporters hope will be hard to overcome as the election inevitably gets much closer.

The Critical Insights poll was conducted Sept. 12 through Sept. 16 with live telephone interviews of 618 randomly selected likely voters statewide. Results were statistically adjusted to reflect the Maine population regarding age, gender, region of residence and political affiliation. The poll has a 4 percent margin of error.

The Press Herald received the poll results Sept. 20 and spent the following week analyzing them, contacting respondents, interviewing experts and developing articles and graphics based on the findings.

The poll shows:

Fifty percent of voters surveyed said they support King, compared to 28 percent for Republican Charlie Summers and 12 percent for Democrat Cynthia Dill.

King's lead is larger in the Critical Insights poll than in three other recent polls on Maine's high-profile Senate race, although an independent polling analyst said the variation is reasonable and likely reflects differences between polls.

Critical Insights, for example, was the only pollster to include cellphone users in its sample, and the only one to count voters who say they are undecided but leaning toward a candidate. Without so-called leaners, for example, King's lead in the poll is 19 points, rather than 22.

Obama's lead over Romney is 52 percent to 36 percent, compared to 49 percent to 35 percent in June, the poll says.

However, Obama's lead was much less comfortable in Maine's 2nd Congressional District, 46 percent to 41 percent, the poll shows. Winning the more rural northern parts of the state would give Romney one of Maine's four electoral votes -- potentially splitting Maine's electoral votes for the first time in 184 years.

And, unlike in the country as a whole, Obama is more popular here with higher-income voters and Romney's strongest support is among lower-income Mainers.

The referendum proposal to legalize same-sex marriage in Maine leads 57 percent to 36 percent in the poll, with 7 percent saying they are undecided.

The 21-percentage point lead is almost identical to the findings of the June poll. It is a larger lead than was measured by three other recent polls, although the differences are within the polls' margins of error.

(Continued on page 2)

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Eric Moynihan of Yarmouth: “I’m pretty confident that gay people can have strong marriages and are strong citizens.”


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