LePage, Cutler campaigns say new polling data biased toward Michaud

New data from Public Policy Polling show Democrat Mike Michaud and Gov. Paul LePage within two percentage points of each other in the Maine gubernatorial election next year, 38 percent and 36 percent, respectively, while independent Eliot Cutler trails with 15 percent support. Ten percent were undecided.

The polling firm, which the LePage and Cutler campaigns contend produces results that lean toward Democrats and which does polling for the Democratic Governors Association, found that LePage would lose in a two-way race against either Michaud or Cutler. Michaud would beat LePage 53 percent to 39 percent, with 8 percent not sure, while Cutler would win 49 percent to 38 percent, with 13 percent not sure.

Brent Littlefield, LePage’s senior political adviser, attacked the poll results as biased toward Democrats and said the campaign’s internal polling shows LePage in the lead. Littlefield has not released any data to back that up.

“LePage internal data still shows the governor with a lead … still with a comfortable lead,” wrote Littlefield in an email to media organizations Monday morning. “This is not shocking considering he is the incumbent, Maine has not defeated a sitting incumbent governor in decades (including Baldacci, who for a while had the lowest approval ratings in the nation), and in these off-year races at his point in a term the opposition political party to the president historically does very well.”

Littlefield questioned the accuracy of the poll because it was conducted through computer-automated dialing and suggested its results were skewed on purpose.

“There has been a great rush for Democratic firms to show polls that Michael Michaud is viable in order to help his fundraising efforts,” wrote Littlefield.

Ted O’Meara, who is running Cutler’s campaign, said his internal polling numbers also vary widely from the PPP results, though he also declined to release any data to the Bangor Daily News.

“These polls by groups like this at this point in time are really just fake news,” said O’Meara. “They work for the Democratic Governors Association. … This has no value in terms of trying to predict the outcome of this race. Anybody should take this with a grain of salt. It’s trying to force the voters to think that the only choice they have is between the Democratic and Republican candidates.”

The poll’s results might confirm Littlefield’s and O’Meara’s assertions to some degree. It found that 54 percent of respondents said they voted for Barack Obama for president last year, compared to 37 percent for Mitt Romney, and a total of 61 percent described themselves as politically “moderate,” “somewhat liberal” or “very liberal.” About 39 percent said they were “somewhat conservative” or “very conservative.”

Approximately 37 percent said they were Democrats, compared to 31 percent Republicans and 32 percent independents. Fifty-four percent were women and 91 percent were white. The poll also had a heavy sampling of older voters, with 69 percent responding that they were 46 years old or older.

The Michaud campaign characterized the poll as more evidence that Michaud is emerging as a clear frontrunner.

“We see the energy of our supporters growing every day and this latest poll confirms that,” said Michaud campaign manager Matt McTighe in a written statement.

Fueling the argument that Public Policy Polling leans toward Democrats was the firm’s decision in September to withhold poll results in a Colorado U.S. Senate race that showed Democratic incumbent Sen. Angela Giron losing by 12 points. According to the Washington Post, the firm said it didn’t trust its own results from the Senate district, which Barack Obama won last year by almost 20 points. Giron ended up losing the election by the exact margin the PPP poll had predicted.

“It turns out we should have had more faith in our numbers because she was indeed recalled by 12 points,” said PPP’s Tom Jensen, according to the Post.

Favorability ratings in the Public Policy Polling survey also tipped toward Michaud. The poll found that 51 percent of respondents had a favorable opinion of Michaud with 33 percent unfavorable and 16 percent “not sure.” About 32 percent said they had an unfavorable opinion of Cutler, compared to 29 percent who viewed him favorably. But the majority of respondents to this question, 39 percent, said they were “not sure” how they felt about Cutler.

One area of concern for the LePage campaign might be the 54 percent of those polled who disapprove of his job performance. That’s compared to 41 percent who said they approve and 5 percent who weren’t sure.

The poll also indicated that Michaud’s announcement last week that he is gay would have little effect on the election if it were held today. Seventy-one percent of the 964 voters polled between November 8 and 11 said Michaud’s announcement wouldn’t make a difference while another 12 percent said it would make them more likely to vote for Michaud. About 15 percent said they would be less likely to vote for Michaud because of his announcement. 

 

Christopher Cousins

About Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.