A poll released by the Democratic polling firm Public Policy Polling of Raleigh, N.C. shows Democrat U.S. Rep. Michael Michaud with the lead in Maine’s 2014 gubernatorial election.
Of the 538 Maine voters questioned, 44 percent said they would vote for Michaud, while 37 percent said they would vote for incumbent Republican Gov. Paul LePage. Fourteen percent said they would vote for independent candidate Eliot Cutler, while 5 percent said they were unsure. The poll does not report a margin of error.
The Democratic poll, which was sponsored by the liberal group MoveOn.org, suggests Michaud has a comfortable lead in the race. But a closer look reveals some bad news for LePage’s opponents.
For starters, the poll was automated, i.e. conducted by robots, and should be taken with a grain of salt. No one knows who was on the other end of the phone or even whether respondents were old enough to vote.
But the biggest flaw with the poll is a large oversampling of Democrats. According to PPP, the sample included 40 percent Democrats, 32 percent Republicans, and 28 percent independents, i.e. they polled roughly 215 Democrats, 172 Republicans, and 150 people who are not enrolled in either party.
A more appropriate sample would include a higher percentage of independents and a less exaggerated Democratic enrollment advantage.
According to the most recent voter enrollment number from the Secretary of State, there are 983,531 registered voters in Maine: 31.7 percent Democrats, 26.9 percent Republicans, and 41.3 percent unenrolled or green party.
By oversampling Democrats, PPP skews their results in favor of Democratic positions. But even with an embedded Democratic bias, the poll should still cause concern among Michaud’s supporters.
Michaud may also be in trouble with independents – often regarded as the deciding factor in elections. According to the cross tabs, LePage is winning independent voters by 5 percentage points. LePage won favor with 39 percent of independents, while 34 percent supported Michaud. Twenty percent of independents went for Cutler.
Michaud’s independent problem yawns even wider when you consider the poll’s 12 percent undersampling of unenrolled voters.
The poll also suggests that Medicaid expansion will be a non-issue during the campaign. Although 57 percent of respondents said Maine should expand Medicaid, only a minority of voters said LePage’s position on the issue would influence their vote in a direction favorable to Michaud, who has said he supports Medicaid expansion. Thirty-nine percent of respondents said Michaud’s support for Medicaid expansion would make them more likely to support him, while 33 percent said it would make them less likely to support him and 26 percent said it won’t make a difference.
The revealed attitudes toward Medicaid expansion is especially significant given the more than one million dollars liberal advocacy groups and pro-Michaud organizations have spent lobbying on the issue.
Finally, the poll assumes a Democratic voter turnout advantage when the opposite may in fact occur. In 2010, another midterm election, the tea party movement swept an unprecedented number of conservative Republicans into office, including LePage. With popular resistance to President Barack Obama and his signature health care law running high, Maine may be ripe for voter turnout more akin to 2010 than 2012.
View the poll release here.
Editor, Maine Wire