SCARBOROUGH – A poll conducted by one of the candidates in the Republican primary for governor shows the race in a dead heat with most GOP voters undecided.
With the June 13 primary four weeks away, state Sen. Peter Mills, who’s campaign paid for the poll, and former U.S. Rep. Dave Emery were found to be in a statistical tie. Twenty-three percent of respondents said they favor Mills, 22 percent said they favor Emery and 12 percent said they favor state Sen. Chandler Woodcock.
A plurality of respondents – 43 percent – said they weren’t sure.
According to Chris Potholm, a professor of government at Bowdoin College and the author of four books on Maine politics, the high number of uncommitted voters is unusual this close to an election.
“This is not typical for a race four weeks out,” Potholm said. “It’s very much a case where it seems to be a three-way race with Republicans waiting to see who catches their fantasy.”
Mills, nonetheless, took some small satisfaction from the numbers.
“With the big number of undecideds, it doesn’t really mean anything except that we’re in the running,” Mills said Wednesday after a campaign appearance in Scarborough. f”It does encourage people.”
The poll, taken May 8-9, surveyed 400 Republican voters and was conducted by Lance Terrance in Alexandria, Va. The margin of error is plus or minus 5 percent.
Questions in the poll gauged the popularity of the three contenders for the Republican nomination.
Of respondents, 41 percent said they had a favorable opinion of Mills, while 4 percent said they had an unfavorable view. Thirty-one percent said they were not aware of the candidate and 24 percent said they had no opinion.
The numbers were similar for Emery. Forty-one percent said they had a favorable opinion, while 10 percent said they viewed him unfavorably. Twenty-four percent said they were not aware of Emery, and 26 percent said they had no opinion.
Woodcock, from Farmington, had lower numbers. Twenty-three percent said they had a favorable view of the candidate, while 7 percent said they had an unfavorable opinion of him. Forty-four percent said they were not aware of him, and 25 percent said they had no opinion.
The conventional wisdom, Potholm said, is that Emery carried the advantage of name recognition coming into the race.
“But I don’t think that’s accurate. A lot has changed in the 20 years since he held office,” Potholm said.
The key to reaching the undecided, Potholm said, is television.
“People are waiting for their cues from TV,” and that, Potholm said, boils down to the quality and quantity of the advertising the campaigns can muster.
Mills said that he spent $7,200 on the poll, which in addition to the head-to-head comparisons, also tested public opinion on policy issues. Mills only released the results from four questions, saying the other information could potentially help his opponents.