September 28, 2012

July Poll: For Maine genders, views similar but not equal

On social and health issues, the economy and more, the gender gap shows in expected -- and some surprising -- ways.

By John Richardson
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

“I think women are struggling in the economy more than people think we are,” said Joyce Poirier, left, a Democrat and a nurse midwife in Portland.

John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

click image to enlarge

Noelle Surprise, a Portland college student, said she worries about women losing access to abortion and family planning services. “My biggest fear is losing rights as women if (Mitt) Romney wins,” she said.

John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

Additional Photos Below

Related headlines

"My biggest fear is losing rights as women if Romney wins," said Noelle Surprise, a 20-year-old college student from Portland.

Specifically, Surprise said she is worried about women's access to abortion, contraception and family planning services -- "the rights that I feel in the 21st century all women should have. Taking them away seems backward."

Women said they support mandatory coverage of contraception in employers' health plans, 49 percent to 43 percent. Men favor allowing employers to opt out of the coverage based on religious or moral objections, 52 percent to 38 percent.

The poll also shows a gap on issues related to the economy and taxes. Men and women cited the economy and jobs as their biggest concerns. Men were slightly more likely to identify those as top issues than women, although the difference was within the poll's margin of error.

Women were more likely to identify health care and education as top concerns.

"Everybody's worried about the economy, but men may be more worried about the economy," said Shaw, at Thomas College.

That may be because men and women have been affected differently by the recession, she said. Men tended to become unemployed more, while women tended to shift into part-time and transitory work.

But it's clear that women are struggling, too.

Thirty-five percent of the women polled said they are less economically secure than they were two years ago, while 19 percent said they are better off. Among men, 31 percent said they are worse off, while 17 percent said better off.

Women clearly feel at a disadvantage in the economy, according to the poll. Sixty-six percent of the women said they think women are paid less than men for the same work, while only 47 percent of the men said they believe that is true. "The economy is huge (as an issue) and I think women are struggling in the economy more than people think we are," said Joyce Poirier, a nurse midwife who's a Democratic voter from Portland.

Poirier said she also is concerned about issues such as equal pay for equal work, women's health and access to contraceptive coverage. But her vote will be based more on the economy, and she's not sure who she will choose.

"I have two grown children who are struggling," she said. "For us, it was a lot easier. The economy side is not very healthy right now. I'm worried."

Men and women feel differently about how to try to fix the economy, according to the poll.

Fifty-seven percent of the women said they favor more government spending and investment to promote the economy, and 31 percent said they favor cutting spending and taxes as a solution.

Among men, 46 percent said they favor spending more and 40 percent said they favor reducing taxes.

Women also were more likely to support raising income taxes on people who earn $1 million a year or more, although even the more conservative men liked the idea too, according to the poll.

The different views of the economy and what to do about it may help explain why female support is stronger for Michaud and King, and why male support is stronger for their Republican opponents, Raye and Summers. King and Michaud have not been focusing attention so much on women's issues, but their opponents have been campaigning in favor of cutting spending, according to Shaw.

"I think that Republicans in Maine aren't necessarily pushing these reproductive-rights questions as much as they are the need to reduce spending," she said.

King may benefit among women voters more than Dill because he is seen by many Democrats as the best chance to keep the Senate seat out of Republican hands. Women also may remember his laptops-for-students program while he was governor as an example of investment in education, Shaw said.

"I was kind of surprised that women are so enthusiastic about (King)," she said. 

Staff Writer John Richardson can be contacted at 791-6324 or at


Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors

Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

“I really think that we don’t have enough representation for women, and so I do try to look for that. But I certainly wouldn’t vote for a woman just because she is a woman,” said Angelina Simmons, a 36-year-old independent voter from Harpswell.

John Patriquin/Staff Photographer


Further Discussion

Here at we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)