New poll shows LePage with slim lead, but governor’s race still a dead heat

Earlier this morning, the Pan Atlantic SMS Group — a Portland-based marketing and research firm — released the results of its regular Omnibus Poll to the general public.

The piece of the poll that had partisan operatives and #mepolitics observers talking was the slim lead Republican Gov. Paul LePage took over his Democratic opponent, U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, with independent candidate Eliot Cutler trailing behind. It was a reversal from the last Pan Atlantic Poll, in November, which showed Michaud with a lead.

The results of the poll indicated that if the election were held today, LePage would win with 38.6 percent of the vote, edging out Michaud, with 37.3 percent, and Cutler, who’d pull 20.3 percent. That’s a 2.6 percent growth for the governor since Pan Atlantic’s November poll, a 2 percent growth for Cutler, and a flat line for Michaud.

The kicker, though, is the poll’s 4.9 percent margin of error. That’s not a huge margin, by any means — especially considering the poll only surveyed 400 likely voters across the whole state — but it means the race is, statistically, a dead heat. With results like these, early in election night, we’d say the #megov race was “too close to call.”

Patrick Murphy, president of the Pan Atlantic SMS Group, said the real highlight of the gubernatorial election poll was the shrink in those who refused to answer the question or did not know. In November 2013, 8.5 percent of respondents didn’t commit to any candidate. In the April poll, that figure was just 3.7 percent.

Murphy said that this far out of a general election, that figure would normally be around 15 percent, maybe even higher.

“What I see is a solidifying of support for LePage and Michaud, with less people who, at this point at least, say they don’t know,” he said.

Pan Atlantic also surveyed respondents on their opinion of the three gubernatorial candidates, as well as incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins and her Democratic challenger, for ACLU of Maine chief Shenna Bellows.

Respondents had a net unfavorable view of LePage — 52.6 to 45.3. Michaud’s favorable/unfavorable polled at 56.1 to 29.9; and Cutler at 43.8 to 25.

Collins polled most favorably, with 79.4 percent saying they liked the senior senator from Maine, and just 15.9 saying they didn’t.

Shenna Bellows’ performance in the question was perhaps the most surprising revelation in the poll. Just 14.7 percent of respondents had any opinion at all. More than 85 percent of respondents had no opinion of Bellows, or worse, didn’t know who she was.

That means despite Bellows fundraising success and some key endorsements — including a big nod from EMILY’s List on Monday — she’s still got a long way to go in terms of winning over voters. Insiders know Shenna, but the average voter? They’re not there yet.

“I was a little surprised by that,” Murphy said. “It tells me that if Shenna’s going to raise her profile, she’s got to get on the tube.”

The poll also included questions about welfare reform and Medicaid expansions (imprecisely phrased questions, in my humble opinion), and more. You can see all its findings below. Make sure to check out page 28. I think that’s a fascinating question to ask, and the results are interesting too.

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.