A high percentage of Mainers are gravely concerned about the economy, the availability of jobs and access to health care but regardless are overwhelmingly happy to be here, according to data in a new Ipsos/BDN poll conducted earlier this month and released Tuesday.
My colleague Mario Moretto reported this morning on the results of questions related to the governor’s race and the bear-baiting referendum. Check out his story for details about sample size and methodology. The online poll also asked some other interesting questions and came up with some encouraging results for anyone who ever wonders why Maine?
Not surprisingly, 40 percent of respondents said the economy would have the greatest influence on how they vote three weeks from today.
There are obviously many ways to interpret this data, many of them valid, but to me what sticks out is how the higher-ranking results mirror the narratives in the gubernatorial and legislative elections. Beyond the economy and jobs, which are almost always at the top of lists like this one, health care and immigration coming in 3rd and 4th is an indication that voters are to some extent hearing what the candidates want them to hear. That includes Democrats’ desire to expand Medicaid to 70,000 low-income Mainers under the provisions of the Affordable Care Act — which has been defeated by the staunch opposition of Gov. Paul LePage and legislative Republicans in the past two years. Democratic gubernatorial candidates Mike Michaud and independent Eliot Cutler have often said expansion would be among their first actions as governor.
The fact that immigration is in the top four issues of importance to votes shows that LePage’s push for what he calls welfare reform, including a well-publicized crackdown on towns giving general assistance cash to undocumented aliens, is resonating with voters. From my many conversations with voters across the state (seems like I can’t escape political chatter these days), I can tell you that welfare reform is an issue that has taken hold. If LePage wins re-election, much of the credit will be because of his emphasis of this issue and the no-win situation it creates for Democrats who agree about welfare reform but argue that his ideas go too far.
That said, the candidates’ recent attempts to make energy policy central in the campaign debate — again, led by LePage — doesn’t seem to be finding a significant audience.
There weren’t a lot of surprises here, other than that 65 percent of respondents said they have a favorable impression of Cutler, whose overall support when compared to LePage and Michaud remains mired in the mid-teens. It seems to show that a lot of voters are impressed with former Democrat Cutler but are still opting for Michaud, who has never lost an election.
Rating local governments, the Legislature and the Maine media
Approval of these three institutions was pretty dismal, though the majority of voters are happy with their local boards and committees.
Despite its problems, Maine is a great place to live
These are among the most interesting poll results I’ve seen this year. They show what those of us who choose to live here already know: Sure, quality jobs are scarce, taxes are high, winter is cold and three paper mills have announced this year that they’ll close, but most of us still love Maine.
The role of government creating jobs, employment security
Some people (Republicans, I’m looking at you) argue that Maine government is too intrusive, which goes to the core of the ideological difference between Republicans and Democrats here and across the country. However, when it comes to creating jobs, those who think government should play a greater role outnumbered the rest of the respondents by 2-to-1 margins. And only about half of respondents said they are happy with their financial footing.