Michaud retains slight lead in newest poll, plus 7 stories you need to read

Democratic gubernatorial candidate and U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud last week in Portland. BDN photo by Troy R. Bennett.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate and U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud last week in Portland. BDN photo by Troy R. Bennett.

The latest poll regarding Maine’s gubernatorial race shows the Democratic challenger, U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, with a small but statistically irrelevant advantage over incumbent Republican Gov. Paul LePage, and independent candidate Eliot Cutler trailing far behind.

The latest survey, commissioned by the Portland Press Herald and conducted Sept. 18-25 by pollsters at the University of New Hampshire, shows Michaud polling at 40 percent to LePage’s 38 percent. Cutler drew the support of 12 percent of respondents, and 10 percent were undecided.

Even including those who said they are “leaning” toward a particular candidate, Michaud retains the same margin over LePage, 41 to 39. The two-point margin in both scenarios is well within the poll’s 4.4 percent margin of error.

Do the preceding paragraphs sound familiar? Because by now they should. The basic shape of the race — Michaud with a small advantage, within the margin of error — hasn’t really changed since June.

However, as PPH reporter Steve Mistler pointed out, there is one piece of data within the poll’s results — I’d recommend you check out all the poll’s findings here — that piqued my interest.

Those of you who follow polling will likely have seen something in the past few years about the superior track record of “expectation” versus “preference” in predicting the outcome of elections. Basically, when a pollster asks respondents who they expect will win an election, rather than who the respondents support, the poll yields results that more accurately predict the outcome.

The idea here, according to researchers David Rothschild and Justin Wolfers, is that by asking someone what they expect an outcome to be, you’re drawing on a larger pool of information. The respondent is forced to consider not only their own preference, but to assess the preferences of everyone they know, as well as media coverage, debate performance, and campaign narrative. Rothschild and Wolfers said asking about the respondent’s expectations was like “turbocharging the sample size.”

Anyway: The PPH/UNH poll showed something interesting: Even though more respondents said they supported Michaud than LePage, the “expectation” number was flipped: 38 percent said they thought LePage would win, and 37 percent predicted a Michaud victory. Just 5 percent though Cutler would be the state’s next governor.

Back in June, when PPH/UNH conducted its first poll, 43 percent said they believed Michaud would win, compared to 31 percent for LePage and 7 percent for Cutler.

That’s a big shift in the public’s perception about the shape of this race; Even though only about the same number of people say they plan on voting for LePage, far more are predicting that he’ll be the eventual winner.

7 stories you need to read

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. Mario left the BDN in 2015.