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 2)

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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.

While King leads Summers overall, 50 percent to 28 percent, a larger portion of his support is in the "probably" or "leaning" categories.

Comparing only "definite" voters, King leads 32 percent to 22 percent.


Maine remains a solid pro-Obama state heading into the final weeks of the campaign.

Even as voters remain worried about the weak economy and lack of jobs, Obama's favorability rating rose from 48 percent in June to 52 percent this month, according to the poll.

And Romney's promises to turn around the economy have still not connected with Maine voters, according to the poll and follow-up interviews.

"(Romney) doesn't specifically come out and say, 'This is what I'm going to do,'" said Jeffrey Hilton, an Auburn Republican who voted for John McCain four years ago but is leaning toward Obama. "If he could convince me to vote for him, I would."

The poll was conducted after both parties' national conventions were over, to prevent coverage and hype from skewing the results.

Interviews were done in the days following the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya and as Romney faced criticism for speaking out against diplomatic efforts to ease tensions. Fifty percent of voters said they trust Obama to do a better job handling international relations, compared to 36 percent for Romney.

Polling was completed before Romney made headlines for secretly recorded comments about the 47 percent of Americans who he said don't pay taxes, depend on public assistance and support Obama.

Romney's comments focused attention on the undercurrent of class warfare in the presidential race, with Democrats casting Romney as a tax-dodging millionaire and Republicans calling Obama "the food stamp president."

The politics of class may also be at play in Maine, but in a much different way than the country as a whole.

Nationally, Obama has a 12-point lead among American voters earning less than $36,000, according to Gallup Daily tracking polls. Romney, on the other hand, has a 9-point lead among Americans earning $120,000 a year or more.

In Maine, however, Obama has a 13-point lead among voters earning $100,000 a year or more, but only a 7-point lead among voters with household incomes less than $50,000.

The relationship between income and political views in Maine is no surprise to political scientists and pollsters here.

"Lower-income respondents tend to be more rural, and in this state they tend to be more conservative," said MaryEllen Fitzgerald of Critical Insights.

Higher-income households in Maine are concentrated in the suburban south and along the coast, where voters also tend to be more liberal.

Lower-income households are concentrated in the rural western and northern parts of the state, where the economy is especially weak and where voters tend to be more conservative.

"I feel as though Obama has not helped this country at all. I am very disheartened," said Pamela Wilkinson, a 36-year-old stay-at-home mother and Republican in the Aroostook County town of Littleton. Her family's income is less than $50,000 a year, she said, and she and her husband are strong Romney supporters.

While wealth is closely linked to geography in Maine, it is more closely linked to racial differences in more ethnically diverse states.

In many parts of the country, lower-income households tend to be urban and minority, groups more supportive of Obama. Here, poorer households are largely rural and white, groups that support Romney.

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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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