Pocketbook issues such as the cost of living, inflation and taxes are the most important issues to Maine voters in the closing weeks of the election season, according to a poll released Thursday by Pan Atlantic Research of Portland. 

Access to abortion, which has been a major focus of Democrats’ campaign since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, was only named by 16% of respondents as one of the most important issues.

“When Roe was overturned, it kind of threw a bunch of things into flux and abortion kind of sucked up all of the energy in the room and that gave a lot of Democrats some hope,” said Mark Brewer, the chair of the political science department at the University of Maine in Orono. “But once we have gotten further away from that, the things that were concerning voters before Roe was overturned seems to have pushed their way back to the top of the list.” 

The relatively low concern about abortion may in part reflect that Maine, unlike some other states, has a state law in place protecting access, at least in the short term. Abortion is still considered an important variable for many voters when choosing a candidate, with 45% of Democrats, 40% of independents and 33% of Republicans choosing it as a key factor, according to the poll.

While the concern about economic issues aligns more closely with Republican campaign messages, the poll also shows Democratic Gov. Janet Mills with a 10 percentage-point lead over former Republican Gov. Paul LePage. And Mills was holding her own in the more conservative 2nd Congressional District, according to the poll. 

The poll of about 800 likely voters was conducted from Oct. 7-15 – after the first two gubernatorial debates – and is a snapshot of voter sentiment at one point in time and does not predict the outcome of elections. Its margin of error is 3.5%.


The cost of living was named one of the top three issues facing the state by 70 percent of all respondents, while inflation was flagged by 42% and high taxes by 26%. Health care/insurance costs and education/schools generally were in the top three for 24% of respondents.

Among Republicans and independents, about 80 percent of respondents said inflation is a key factor in determining their choice of candidates, while 57% of Democrats agreed. More Democrats – 61% – said health care access is a key factor, and 56% of Democrats said climate change and environmental issues are a key factor.

“It’s sort of a tale of two contexts here,” Brewer said. “If you look at the issues that voters say are the most important to them, you’d think that would be a real positive for Republicans. And then you look at the results and (voters) seem to be exempting Janet Mills and (U.S. Rep.) Jared Golden from some of these concerns.”

The poll had Golden with an 8 percentage-point lead over Republican Bruce Poliquin, 47% to 39%, in the 2nd District race. Independent Tiffany Bond registered at 8%, while 7% of voters were undecided.

Republicans and their allies have been spending big money to blame Mills and Democrats for inflation and high gas prices.

Republicans planted “Biden-Mills gas hike” signs in front of the Democratic state convention in Bangor this summer and recent TV ads have accused Mills of adding a grocery tax and supporting higher gas taxes, neither of which are entirely true. The former claim is based on a bipartisan bill to shift recycling costs from municipalities to packaging producers, while the latter is based on a proposed carbon tax bill that Democrats abandoned three years ago and a report that suggested increasing the gas tax that was not endorsed by the administration.



There are signs that voters are not buying those claims and suggest Mills may be insulated from national political headwinds that come with being the party controlling the White House during the first midterm election. The signs that abortion is receding as a motivating issue in Maine does not seem to have hurt Mills even though she has made it a centerpiece of her reelection campaign.

While President Biden has a net negative favorability rating of minus 8 points, Mills has a net positive favorability rating of plus 22 points, according to the poll.

In the last six months, Mills’ net favorability has increased across party lines, increasing 17 points to 86% among Democrats and 19 points to 28% among independents. She’s even improved her standing among Republicans. While still deep in negative territory, her favorability rating improved from negative 48% to negative 39%.

The poll did not assess the favorability ratings of LePage.

The poll also provides some insight into 10 percent of respondents who said they have not decided which candidate for governor to support. “Respondents who were undecided about their vote for governor were more likely to be lower income, to have a lower level of education, and to be registered independents or Republicans,” the poll states.


Mills had 57% support in the more liberal 1st Congressional District and 60% support among voters with a college education, according to the poll. Mills only trailed in the 2nd District, which the former Republican governor calls “LePage Country,” by 4 percentage points and was doing equally well among voters without college degrees, getting 44%, it said.


Brewer said Mills’ appeal in the more conservative, northern half of the state likely stems from her opposition to some of the more progressive policy proposals and spending ideas within her own party, including calls for more gun control and higher taxes for top earners. Golden also has made high-profile breaks with his party and Biden, including voting against the massive Build Back Better Act, estimated to cost nearly $2 trillion.

“Both Golden and Mills have done that and I think it’s paying off for them, at least somewhat in these poll results,” he said.

Mills recently received an A rating from the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, an influential lobbying group representing hunters and gun owners, for her support for gun ownership and land conservation efforts.

LePage, meanwhile, received an incomplete, withdrawing from the group’s candidate survey after objecting to questions about land conservation and new fish hatcheries. LePage later accused the group of trying to get him to support a new $40 million fish hatchery, saying “I can’t be bought.”

The poll also shows the pandemic receding in importance, with only 9% of respondents saying it was a key issue, down from 22% in April.

Nearly half of poll respondents – 49% – said they planned to vote for Mills, while 39% were likely to vote for LePage. Only 2% said they planned to vote for independent Sam Hunkler.

The election forecasting website FiveThirtyEight gives Pan Atlantic Research a “B/C” grade, saying it has predicted the winner in 94% of the races it has polled. The recent survey was in line with other polls released since September, which show Mills’ lead ranging from 11% to 14%.

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