September 30, 2012

Poll: King support drops, but he still holds big lead; Obama widens gap

By John Richardson
Staff Writer

Angus King’s popularity with voters has taken a clear hit, but the independent former governor still holds a commanding lead in the race to become Maine’s next U.S. senator, according to a statewide poll conducted earlier this month for MaineToday Media.

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Staff graphic by Sharon Wood

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King’s lead dropped from nearly 30 percentage points in June to 22 points in September, according to the poll. While that’s a sign that anti-King TV ads have worked, voters said in the poll and in follow-up interviews that they are not swayed by the ads. Many voters said they are simply annoyed.

The poll by Critical Insights found that President Barack Obama has expanded his lead in Maine as he has elsewhere, but that the state is going against the national grain when it comes to class politics. Obama’s lead here is strongest among higher-income voters, while Republican Mitt Romney gets his strongest support from lower-income voters.

And the effort to legalize same-sex marriage in Maine is holding a strong lead in September, it found, a cushion that supporters hope will be hard to overcome as the race inevitably gets much closer.

The Critical Insights poll was conducted Sept. 12 through Sept. 16 with live telephone interviews of 618 randomly selected likely voters statewide.

Results were statistically adjusted to reflect the Maine population regarding age, gender, region of residence and political affiliation. The poll has a 4 percent margin of error.

MaineToday Media received the poll results Sept. 20 and spent the following week analyzing them, contacting respondents, interviewing experts and developing articles and graphics based on the findings.

The poll shows:

• Fifty percent of voters surveyed said they support King, compared to 28 percent for Summers and 12 percent for Democrat Cynthia Dill.

King’s lead is larger in the Critical Insights poll than in three other recent polls on Maine’s high-profile Senate race, although an independent polling analyst said the variation is reasonable and likely reflects differences among polls.

Critical Insights, for example, was the only pollster to include cellphone users in its sample, and the only one to count voters who say they are undecided but leaning toward a candidate. Without so-called leaners, for example, King’s lead in the poll is 19 points, rather than 22.

• Obama’s lead over Romney is 52 percent to 36 percent, compared to 49 percent to 35 percent in June, the poll says.

However, Obama’s lead was much less comfortable in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, 46 percent to 41 percent, the poll shows. Winning the more rural northern parts of the state would give Romney one of Maine’s four electoral votes — potentially splitting Maine’s electoral votes for the first time in 184 years.

And unlike in the country as a whole, Obama is more popular here with higher-income voters and Republican challenger Mitt Romney’s strongest support is among lower-income Mainers.

• The referendum proposal to legalize same-sex marriage in Maine leads 57 percent to 36 percent in the poll, with 7 percent saying they are undecided.
The 21-percentage point lead is almost identical to the findings of the June poll. It is a larger lead than was measured by three other recent polls, although the differences are within the polls’ margins of error.

• Both of Maine’s members of the U.S. House of Representatives hold strong leads in their races for re-election, according to the poll.

Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, leads Republican challenger Jon Courtney 60 percent to 29 percent, with 11 percent undecided. The 31-point lead for Pingree is 5 points larger than in the June poll.

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