November 5, 2012

Poll: Romney slicing into Obama's lead in Maine

Romney gains among men in the latest Maine survey, but Obama still holds a 7-percentage-point edge; also, same-sex marriage heads for a showdown.

By John Richardson jrichardson@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Mitt Romney has cut President Obama's lead in half among Maine voters, although Obama still holds a tough-to-overcome 7-percentage-point advantage, according to a poll conducted last week for the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram.

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ABOUT THE POLL

This is the third poll conducted by Critical Insights for the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram since June.

The Portland-based public opinion research firm conducted live telephone interviews of 613 randomly selected likely voters statewide Oct. 30 and 31. Voters were contacted both on land lines and cellphones,

The storm that hit the East Coast on Monday did not have a significant effect on the survey, according to Critical Insights. A small percentage of Maine households, about 2 percent, were without power at the time.

The poll has a margin of error of 4 percentage points for statewide results and 5.6 percentage points for the results in individual congressional districts.

Initial refusal rates were 6.2 percent statewide.

Results of the raw survey were weighted, or statistically adjusted, to match the demographic makeup of Maine's voting population. The sample was weighted according to age, gender, region of residence and political affiliation.

-- By John Richardson

Obama leads the Republican nominee 49 percent to 42 percent in the statewide telephone survey conducted Tuesday and Wednesday by Portland-based Critical Insights. In mid-September -- before the presidential debates sparked enthusiasm for Romney -- Obama led by 16 points.

The race is now close enough in Maine that Romney is winning among men voters for the first time, the poll shows. Strong support among women is keeping Obama in the lead.

Maine is still expected to back Obama overall. Even in the 2nd Congressional District, where Republicans hope to peel off one of Maine's four electoral votes, Obama appears to have a solid 7-point lead, the poll suggests.

Maine's same-sex marriage referendum also may be shaping up for a close finish.

Supporters still have a 13-percentage-point lead over opponents -- 55 percent to 42 percent, with just 3 percent undecided, according to the poll. However, the lead dropped from 21 points in September, and a tendency for voters to change their votes to "No" in the privacy of the ballot box has experts predicting a much narrower margin on Election Day.

Former Gov. Angus King, meanwhile, appears to have weathered an onslaught of Republican-backed advertising in his race to fill Maine's open U.S. Senate seat.

King leads Republican Charlie Summers by 16 points -- 49 percent to 33 percent, according to the poll. Democrat Cynthia Dill is holding steady with 11 percent support, it says.

Both of Maine's incumbent members of Congress, Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, and Rep. Mike Michaud, D-2nd District, are holding large leads in their re-election bids, according to the poll.

Pingree leads Republican Jon Courtney 56 percent to 37 percent, according to the poll. Michaud leads Republican Kevin Raye 55 percent to 36 percent, it says.

Critical Insights conducted the latest poll Oct. 30 and 31 using live telephone interviews of 613 likely voters statewide. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.

Maine will likely have a big turnout at the polls Tuesday, according to the survey.

Voters said they are paying close attention, especially to the two races that are least predictable: the national presidential race and the state's marriage referendum.

"There are two things driving people to the ballots -- the presidential race and same-sex marriage," said MaryEllen FitzGerald, president of Critical Insights. "The excitement is really around those two issues."

THE RACE FOR PRESIDENT

Romney's gain in the Maine poll reflects a tightening in national polls that show the race virtually tied nationwide.

Pro-Romney enthusiasm grew after his performance in the three presidential debates, especially the first one, according to the Maine poll and others around the country.

In the Maine poll, 40 percent of Romney supporters said the debates had a significant impact on their choice, compared to 24 percent of Obama supporters.

"The first debate clearly made an impact," said Mark Brewer, associate professor of political science at the University of Maine. "(Voters) thought, 'You know what? This guy is up for the job. Maybe we should give him a look.'"

Accusations that the White House misled Americans about the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, may have contributed to Romney's rise and galvanized his support, but appears to be a less significant factor, according to the poll.

Most voters -- 71 percent -- said the Libya issue did not affect their choice for president. However, 22 percent of voters -- mostly Republicans and enthusiastic Romney supporters -- said it made them less likely to vote for Obama.

(Continued on page 2)

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