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

(Continued from page 1)

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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.

Both of Maine's members of the U.S. House of Representatives hold strong leads in their races for re-election, according to the poll.

Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, leads Republican challenger Jon Courtney 60 percent to 29 percent, with 11 percent undecided. The 31-point lead for Pingree is 5 points larger than in the June poll.

Rep. Mike Michaud, D-2nd District, leads Republican challenger Kevin Raye 54 percent to 39 percent, with 8 percent undecided. The number of undecided 2nd District voters is now much smaller, the poll shows, but both candidates picked up new supporters and Michaud's lead in mid-September is almost identical to his lead in June.

Here is a closer look at each race.


King clearly saw his lead slip as national groups spent about $2 million on ads criticizing his record as governor and private wind farm developer, part of an organized effort to put a Republican majority in the Senate.

The poll found Summers' support to be only slightly higher than it was in June, but it also suggests he benefited from Republican efforts to split the Democratic vote by driving support from King to Dill.

One Republican-led group has even spent $359,000 on ads touting Dill, and the poll indicates that 5 percent of voters moved from King to Dill since the last survey in June. Among Democrats, King's support dropped from 67 percent in June to 62 percent in September, while Dill's increased from 17 percent to 25 percent.

Despite the drop in support for King, 51 percent of voters polled said criticisms in political ads and media coverage have had little or no effect on them. In interviews, voters said last week the attack ads are mostly just annoying.

"It's awful," said 29-year-old Jennifer James, an assistant bank manager from Shapleigh who is an independent -- and undecided -- voter. "They just degrade each other. It doesn't make either side look good."

"These political ads nowadays, it's kind of like don't believe anything you hear and half of what you see. It's like they try to twist everybody's words," said Jeffrey Hilton, a 49-year-old Republican from Auburn who is leaning toward Angus King.

John Bernard, a retired English professor and Democrat who lives in South Portland, said he plans to vote for Dill but is worried about the Republican efforts to split the Democratic vote. "I do think she is the only progressive in the race. I don't want to see my vote help elect Summers," he said.

James Weymouth, a 73-year-old retired salesman from Augusta, said he is a steadfast Summers supporter, but not because of TV ads. "He's a good man. He's a Republican and what he believes in, I believe in."

King's lead in September is still substantial, even with the variation in recent polls. He has especially strong support among women (52 percent), young voters (58 percent), college graduates (58 percent) and voters with household incomes over $100,000 a year (59 percent), according to the Critical Insights poll.

Summers' support, meanwhile, is strongest among men (34 percent) and middle-aged voters (34 percent), and he has the most support of any candidate among voters who have a high school diploma or did not complete high school (39 percent).

Despite his lead, King's numbers could drop further because some of his support is soft, the poll suggests.

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Additional Photos

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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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