A poll out Wednesday morning shows Republican Gov. Paul LePage with a slight lead over both opponents in his reelection bid.
LePage leads the gubernatorial contest with 38.6 percent to Democratic U.S. Rep. Michael Michaud’s 37.3 percent. Independent Eliot Cutler won 20.3 percent of voters.
Statistically, the race is a dead heat between LePage and Michaud. But the poll also offers more bad news for Democrats: With one in five likely voters supporting him, Cutler is going nowhere.
The poll was conducted by Pan Atlantic SMS Group, a Portland-based market research firm. The sample size was 400 Maine residents even divided over Maine’s congressional districts.
A similar poll conducted by Pan Atlantic in November found Michaud (37) with a one point lead on LePage (36). In that poll, 18 percent said they would vote for Cutler. Comparing the two polls shows LePage and Cutler’s support growing while Michaud’s has remained relatively flat.
The poll deviates sharply from Democratic polls touted by the Michaud campaign, the most recent of which showed Michaud winning 44 percent and Cutler below 20 percent. That poll, which heavily over-sampled Democrats, was largely rejected by Maine political commentators. And, unlike the last poll, Pan Atlantic’s used real live interviewers rather than robots, which means it’s probably more accurate.
Republicans and the LePage campaign touted the poll as a sign of strength, noting that the poll shows LePage winning more votes than he did in 2010.
“This poll makes clear what we already know, the naysayers who claim Governor LePage’s support would never grow were simply wrong, and more and more Maine people are going to reward Governor LePage for his hard work to create jobs, fix Maine’s budget, and reform welfare with their votes in November,” said Maine GOP Executive Director Jason Savage.
Savage said Michaud’s campaign is “stuck in neutral and going nowhere.”
Brent Littlefield, top adviser to LePage, said the poll likely underestimates LePage’s support. “Taken the origin of the survey as well as the trends, the actual numbers on these specific questions are likely even more favorable for the Governor than what is demonstrated in their report,” said Littlefield.
Some other noteworthy points from the poll:
- President Obama’s approval rating was 17.8 percent among Republicans, 38.3 percent among independents, and 63.8 percent among Democrats, for an overall approval rating of 41 percent.
- Favorability: 45.3 percent had a very favorable or somewhat favorable view of LePage, while 56.1 percent held somewhat or very favorable views of Michaud. According to Pan Atlantic, LePage’s favorability among independents was increased 10.5 points since November.
- Who’s Shenna? Sen. Susan Collins continues to be the most favorable Maine politician. Significantly, Democrat Shenna Bellows, who is running against Collins, was an unknown for 85.3 percent of respondents.
- Important Issues: 28.9 percent say jobs and unemployment is the most pressing issue facing the state; 16.8 percent say its the economy in general. Only 11 percent said the accessibility and cost of health care was the most important issue. Jobs and the economy was most important among independent voters.
- LePage has a substantial lead among independent voter – a block that comprises roughly 40 percent of registered Maine voters. According to the poll, 38.7 percent of independents favor LePage, while Michaud and Cutler have the support of 28.5 percent and 26.7 percent, respectively.
- The bear hunting referendum is a dead split, with 46.7 percent of respondents saying they would vote yes and 48.1 percent saying they would vote no. Support for banning the baiting, trapping and hounding of bear was stronger in southern Maine.