New poll shows 2018 race for Maine governor in virtual dead heat

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Republican Shawn Moody and Democrat Janet Mills are locked in a dead heat in the Maine governor’s election, according to a new poll by Suffolk University in Boston.

In the race for the U.S. Senate, incumbent Angus King, an independent, holds a commanding lead, with 52 percent saying they would vote for him if the election were today, while 25 percent said they would vote for the Republican challenger, state Sen. Eric Brakey, and 9 percent would vote for the Democrat, Zak Ringlestein.

The poll also found that 51 percent support Question 1, a ballot measure that would create a universal home care program for the elderly by adding a 3.8 percent tax on household incomes above the amount subject to Social Security taxes, which is $128,400 in the year 2018. Thirty four percent oppose the question and 14 percent are undecided.

The landline and cellphone poll of 500 registered Maine voters was conducted from Aug. 2-6. It has a margin of error of 4.4 percent, at a 95 percent confidence level.

In the governor’s race, 38.8 percent said that if the election were held on the day of the poll, they would vote for or wear leaning toward Mills, while 39 percent said they would vote for or were leaning toward Moody. Four percent said they favored independent candidate Terry Hayes; 2.6 percent said they favored independent candidate Alan Caron, and the remaining 15.6 percent said they remain undecided.

The poll also suggests voters have a more favorable impression of both Moody and Mills than either incumbent Republican Gov. Paul LePage or President Donald Trump.

While 41 percent said they held the president in a favorable light, only 37 percent said they had a favorable view of LePage. Of the candidates in the governor’s race, Moody had the highest favorability rating at 46 percent and Mills was viewed favorably by 44 percent.

King had the highest approval rating of any of the politicians in the survey, with 63.2 percent saying they saw King in a favorable light. Meanwhile, 49 percent said they held Maine’s senior U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican who is not up for reelection until 2020, in a favorable light.

The poll also found that the biggest issue for respondents in deciding who to vote for as governor is healthcare, with 28.2 percent ranking that as their top concern. The economy was a close second with 26 percent saying that was the issue that mattered most to them. Education and taxes trailed as the top issue, with 11 percent each.

In another question, 56 percent of respondents said they disagree with LePage’s position against expanding Medicaid, as approved by voters in 2016, to 70,000 more low-income Mainers, while 40 percent support his position.

Despite LePage’s lower favorability rating, the poll indicates that a majority of voters, 51 percent, see the state heading in the right direction. But only 31 percent said their standard of living was better now than it was four years ago.

The survey also found that 47 percent of voters approve of Maine’s first-in-the-nation ranked choice voting system while 42.6 percent disapprove of the system.

Maine candidates for governor, clockwise from top left, Janet Mills, Shawn Moody, Terry Hayes and Alan Caron.

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