Mike Michaud still leads 2014 gubernatorial race in newest early poll

Maine People’s Resource Center on Wednesday released the results of its first poll on the 2014 governor’s race, with six-term Democratic U.S. Congressman Mike Michaud leading the three-way race against incumbent Republican Gov. Paul LePage and independent candidate Eliot Cutler.

The results closely mirror the results of a poll conducted last month by the N.C.-based Public Policy Polling. In the MPRC results, Michaud won the support of 40 percent of those polled. LePage followed with 34 percent and Cutler with 16.8 percent. Just over 9 percent were undecided, according to MPRC.

In the Public Policy Polling results, Michaud, LePage and Cutler pulled 39 percent, 35 percent and 18 percent, respectively.

Obviously, there’s loads of time before the November 2014 gubernatorial election, and there’s plenty of room for movement before Election Day. Remember, for example, that Cutler polled behind then LePage and then-Senate President Libby Mitchell, the Democrats’ candidate, for nearly the entire 2012 campaign before narrowly missing victory on election night.

After the PPP poll was released, Cutler’s campaign spokesman Ted O’Meara said it wasn’t a surprise to see Michaud ahead because so far he’s the only one who has really been campaigning. He’s the only candidate of the three to have had a formal “announcement” event, which could also have caused a bump in the polls. In April, before he announced his intent to run, Michaud polled at just 22.8 percent — behind LePage (33.5 percent) and Cutler (25.6 percent).

Still, Michaud’s campaign seized on the most recent poll results in its fundraising efforts by casting the trend of polling leads as proof of momentum for his campaign. Two hours after this post was written, in a fundraising email touting the poll results, the Michaud campaign wrote: “LePage is still a viable threat. If we don’t have the resources to keep Mike’s momentum going, the governor will stay within striking distance of winning a second term.”

Without Cutler in the race, Michaud would cruise to an easy victory, picking up nearly all of Cutler’s share of the electorate, according to the poll results, which indicate Michaud would win 59.6 percent of the vote, with LePage pulling 36.1 percent.

MPRC also polled the favorability of each of the three candidates, and released those numbers as well:

  • About 38 percent of those polled have a favorable opinion of LePage. About 57 percent have an unfavorable opinion of the governor, and 3.4 percent were undecided. Only 1.7 percent of those polled said they were too unfamiliar with the governor to have an opinion.
  • Cutler polled at a not-so-great 46 percent unfavorability rating, but has the most ground to gain of any candidate: 21.4 percent said they were too unfamiliar with the candidate to have an opinion, meaning Cutler could still win those voters over. Another 26 percent said they had a favorable opinion of Cutler, while 6.7 percent were undecided.
  • Michaud had the highest favorability rating in the poll, weighing in at about 56 percent. Another 31.2 percent said they had an unfavorable opinion, 8.8 percent said they were not familiar enough with the Congressman and 4 percent said they were undecided about him.

MPRC polled 652 likely Maine voters using automated telephone calls from Sept. 8 through Sept. 10. The poll’s margin of error is 3.84 percent. The group is affiliated and shares some staff with the liberal Maine People’s Alliance — which has already endorsed Michaud — so Republicans, and maybe Camp Cutler will likely groan about the results.

LePage political adviser Brent Littlefield regularly berates the media for covering public polls, and has claimed the governor’s internal poll numbers are solid. Littlefield refuses to release internal poll data as a matter of custom. In 2012, MPRC was one of three pollsters — including PPP and Portland-based Critical Insights — to accurately predict the outcomes of every major contest on Maine’s ballot.

The poll also asked a couple questions about the U.S. Senate race coming up in 2014, which will see Republican Susan Collins seek re-election.

In a head-to-head against a generic Democrat, Collins easily wins the election, according to the results. She pulls 59.5 percent of the electorate to her side, while the generic Democrat polls at 25.7 percent. Against Eliot Cutler, Collins wins 57.5-28.

The poll results also indicated that a majority of Mainers support the state’s anti-discrimination law and would oppose efforts to let businesses discriminate against gays and lesbians on religious grounds. It also shows that a slim majority of respondents support the broad immigration reform package that’s been floated in Washington, D.C.

Here’s the numbers on those last three questions:

Maine’s non-discrimination law makes it illegal for businesses and organizations to deny services to people based on characteristics like their race, religion or whether or not they are gay or lesbian. Do you support or oppose this law?

  • Strongly support: 55.2 percent
  • Somewhat support: 19.2 percent
  • Somewhat oppose: 10.4 percent
  • Strongly oppose: 6.9 percent
  • Not sure: 8.5 percent

Some people have proposed creating new laws in Maine that would allow businesses and organizations to deny services to gays and lesbians if it violates their religious beliefs. Would you support such a law?

  • Yes: 27.7 percent
  • No: 60.5 percent
  • Not sure: 11.8 percent

As you may know, the U.S. Senate recently voted to pass legislation reforming the immigration system. The bill would allow illegal immigrants already in the country to become citizens after 13 years if they pay a fine and learn English. The bill would also double the number of border patrol agents, and double the amount of fencing along the Mexican border. In general, do you support or oppose this bill?

  • Support: 52.8 percent
  • Oppose: 29.6 percent
  • Not sure: 17.5 percent
Mario Moretto

About Mario Moretto

Mario Moretto has been a Maine journalist, in print and online publications, since 2009. He joined the Bangor Daily News in 2012, first as a general assignment reporter in his native Hancock County and, now, in the State House.