Maine Attorney General Janet Mills, the Democratic candidate for governor in 2018, has strong support among female voters, a recent poll from Suffolk University in Boston found.

The early August poll found that 48 percent of female voters favor Mills while 29 percent support her Republican rival, businessman Shawn Moody. Looking at male voters, 50 percent back Moody and 29 percent favor Mills. About 15 to 16 percent of both male and female voters are undecided, and 2 to 4 percent of both males and females support the independents in the race, Alan Caron and Terry Hayes.

The breakdown of support between the two top candidates suggests that gender will play as much of a role in the outcome of the 2018 elections as party affiliations.

The poll, which included 254 female voters and 246 men, has a margin of error of plus or minus 6 percentage points for findings for women only or men only.

The poll surveyed 500 likely voters by landline and mobile phone, was funded by the university and had an overall margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

The poll’s overall result showed Moody and Mills in a virtual dead heat, with 39 percent of respondents supporting Moody and 38.8 percent supporting Mills.

The poll found that among female voters, 48 percent support Mills, 29 percent support Moody, 16 percent are undecided, 4 percent support Terry Hayes and 3 percent support Alan Caron. Among male voters, 50 percent support Moody, 29 percent support Mills, 15 percent are undecided, 4 percent support Hayes and 2 percent support Caron.

Among the voters polled who support Moody, 63 percent are men and 37 percent are women. Among the voters polled who support Mills, 37 percent are men and 63 percent are women.

Mills, who has several times in her career as an attorney and politician shattered proverbial “glass ceilings” – she was the first female in New England to be elected to a district attorney’s office and she was Maine’s first female attorney general – generally demurs at the notion that she could be the state’s first female governor.

She has regularly said she’s not running for that reason. On Friday, Mills again pointed to the differences between her and Moody when asked to respond to the poll numbers.

“This election is so important for the future of Maine, and, with an anti-choice candidate like Shawn Moody, for the future of women, too,” Mills said. “I’m proud to have the support and enthusiasm of so many women across the state and will continue to work hard to earn the votes of all Maine people.”

When asked about the split between male and female voters in Maine, Moody’s campaign deflected.

“We are concerned about all Mainers regardless of where they live, what their background is, or who they are,” Moody’s campaign spokeswoman, Lauren LePage, wrote in a message to the Portland Press Herald. “Shawn is running for governor to protect and grow Maine’s economy, help lower healthcare costs, and promote Maine values.”

Mills, along with three other female politicians from Georgia, Idaho and South Dakota, was recently featured in a New York Times report noting that only 28 states have had female governors. The 2018 elections could be the year that number grows significantly for the first time since 2010, when only 23 states had ever elected a woman to the governor’s office.

Mills has also received considerable support from the Washington, D.C., based EMILY’s List, which backs female Democratic candidates who support abortion rights. In June the national political group put $300,000 into a Maine political action committee, Maine Women Together, that used the funds to oppose Mills’ Democratic rival, Adam Cote, in the primary.

It was the first big dump of “outside money”  in the Maine race and it was from an organization that has the stated objective of electing more women to office. Following Mills’ primary win, the group touted her background and the victory.

“Janet Mills made history as the first woman to serve as a district attorney in New England, the first woman to serve as Maine’s Attorney General, and now, she is one step closer to becoming Maine’s first woman governor,” EMILY’s List president Stephanie Schriock said in a news release congratulating Mills.

TRUMP ENERGIZING VOTERS

The Suffolk University poll highlights other differences between male and female voters in Maine, including that President Trump is a larger motivating factor for women than men.

In Maine’s U.S. Senate race in 2018, Trump was the top reason women surveyed said they were voting. Health care came in second. Among men the economy was the top issue, followed by Trump.

Another question about Trump also split along gender lines, with almost 60 percent of women surveyed saying they wanted their vote in November to change the direction the president is leading the nation. Only 21 percent said they wanted their vote to support the president.

Of the men in the survey, 38 percent said they wanted their vote to support Trump while 33 percent said they wanted their vote to change the direction the president is leading the nation. Meanwhile, 24 percent of men said Trump had no bearing on their reason for voting compared with only 16 percent of the women in the survey.

Trump’s disconnect with female voters is also expected to loom large nationally as the backdrop of the #metoo movement overlays a presidency embroiled by scandal after scandal, including charges of infidelity and sexual misconduct made by at least a dozen different women.

Since 1980 women have outpaced men in turning out to vote, according to a 2017 report from the Center for American Women and Politics, at Rutgers University. The report shows that while the turnout rate for female voters was below that of males prior to 1980, it has exceeded it every election since. The report also shows that female voters have outnumbered male voters in every election since the 1964 presidential election and in 2016 registered female voters outnumbered registered male voters by 10 million.

The Maine Secretary of State’s Office, which manages voter registration data, does not collect voter data by gender, although campaigns, candidates and get-out-the-vote organizations have access to levels of aggregated voter data. Those data suggest that female voters also outnumber male voters by about 30,000.

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