May 8, 2011

Poll: Many see LePage in bad light

By Rebekah Metzler
MaineToday Media State House Writer

AUGUSTA -- Most Maine voters think the national media attention that Gov. Paul LePage has drawn in his first four months in office has been bad for the state -- including many people who support the work he has done.

And most believe he made the wrong decision in taking down a mural in the headquarters of the Department of Labor that depicted Maine workers.

That's according to a poll commissioned by MaineToday Media to assess how Mainers feel about the job the Republican governor has done since his inauguration on Jan. 5. LePage was elected in November with about 38 percent of the vote.

The poll was conducted from April 25 to May 2 by Pan Atlantic SMS Group, a Portland-based firm owned by Patrick and Victoria Murphy. Victoria Murphy is a former Maine Democratic Party chair. The firm does independent marketing and research.

Pan Atlantic SMS Group surveyed 401 registered Maine voters, split evenly between the state's two congressional districts. Interviewers called landlines and cellphone numbers. Respondents were about evenly split between Democrats, Republicans and independent voters, and said they had voted in November's election.

The poll results have a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.

About 56 percent of the respondents said they have an unfavorable opinion of LePage; about 39 percent said they have a favorable opinion of him. About 5 percent said they do not know.

In October, a similar poll by Pan Atlantic SMS Group showed that about 47.5 percent of voters had an unfavorable opinion of LePage and about 41.3 percent had a favorable opinion. About 11 percent said they were unsure.

"I just don't think he looks at the big picture of what reforms he wants to make, how they're going to affect things overall, or that the comments he makes, how that makes us look as a state," said Bambi Ulrickson, 34, an independent voter from Freeport who participated in the poll.

LePage, who earned a reputation for making blunt comments on the campaign trail, continued on the same path once in office. He made national headlines for telling NAACP officials they could "kiss my butt" and joking that the only damage the chemical bisphenol-A would do is cause some women to grow "little beards."

"It's one of those things that you are taught in school early -- think before you speak," said Ulrickson. "I think he needs to retake the lesson."

Patrick Murphy said LePage's approval rating has been hurt by high-profile controversies. He also noted that approval ratings for politicians across the country are suffering because of the stagnant economy.

Others respondents in the poll -- part of the solid core of supporters that LePage has proven to have -- said they like his brash style.

"I am just thrilled to have a governor that is not afraid to act upon something," said Nelson Peters, 39, a Republican from Lewiston. "He's sort of out of the box. Now granted, we're kind of paying for that with some of his choice of words, but it would be nice if we could have the best of both worlds."

Brent Littlefield, the governor's senior political adviser, dismissed the relevance of the polling results.

"Hearing these results reminds me of a poll from the same organization before Paul LePage's primary (in June), where they indicated he would only receive 10.3 percent of the vote, and he won with 37.4 percent of the vote," Littlefield said.

While Littlefield is unpaid for his work as LePage's adviser, he does earn income for his affiliation with a new political group called Maine People Before Politics, which recently commissioned a poll. He said that automated poll showed that a large number of Mainers support LePage's policies.

(Continued on page 2)

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