The Goldfarb Center for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement
In Conjunction with SurveyUSA
In the fall of 2015, the Goldfarb Center for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement at Colby College launched the 2016 Election Center. This program offers students, faculty, staff, and members of the community a slate of diverse curricular, co-curricular, and scholarly projects aimed at better understanding the past, present, and future of elections in the United States.
As part of that three-semester initiative, the Center will conduct two polls in the fall of 2016. The first, outlined below, explores myriad issues related to the Maine politics — from the standing of federal office candidates, to voter attitudes regarding the most important issue facing the state. This study aims to offer a scholarly, non-partisan snapshot of voter attitudes and perceptions in the State of Maine.
The second survey will boast a national random sample and focus on issues of civility and compromise in politics. The Center conducted a similar poll in the fall of 2012, and the director for the Center, Professor of Government Dan Shea, has studied these issues for nearly a decade. Shea’s first survey of perceptions of civility and compromise was published in the spring of 2010, and was covered in over 250 media outlets. The Colby College Survey of Civility and Compromise will be conducted in mid-October.
Overview of the Methodology
The Goldfarb Center for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement at Colby College, under the auspices of Center Director and Professor Daniel M. Shea, in partnership with the Boston Globe, commissioned the Colby College/Boston Globe Election Poll.
SurveyUSA interviewed 1,000 adults from the State of Maine 09/04/16 through 09/10/16. Of the adults, 903 were registered to vote. Of the registered voters, 779 were determined by SurveyUSA to be likely to vote on or before the November 8, 2016 general election. Of the likely voters, 382 were from the 1st Congressional District (with a theoretical margin of sampling error of plus or minus 5.3 percentage points in either direction), 397 were from the 2nd Congressional District (with a theoretical margin of sampling error of plus or minus 5.0 percentage points in either direction).
The margin of error for the full sample of 779 respondents is plus or minus 3.51 percent. The margin for error for the 1st Congressional District (382 respondents) is 5.3 percent and for the 2nd Congressional District (397 respondents) is 5.0 percent. All of these figures are based on a 95 percent confidence interval. That is, we can assume that 95 percent of the time a result with the overall sample will be within plus or minus 3.15 percent of the actual figure.
This research was conducted using blended sample, mixed mode. Respondents reachable on a home telephone (73% of likely voters) were interviewed on their home telephone in the recorded voice of a professional announcer. Respondents not reachable on a home telephone (27% of likely voters) were shown a questionnaire on their smartphone, tablet, or other electronic device.
Professor Dan Shea, director of the Goldfarb Center for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement at Colby College, supervised the survey process. Shea, and others at Colby College, designed the instrument.
During the field period for this survey, Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson asked, “What is Aleppo?” during a TV interview. It is unclear whether Johnson’s support will diminish or be unaffected by this perceived gaffe, and how that might impact Trump’s support. Most of the interviews for this survey were completed before Clinton called some Trump supporters a “basket of deplorables.” All of the interviews for this survey were completed before Clinton experienced a medical episode during a 09/11 memorial service in New York City.
The Prior Election Context
The last time a Republican carried Maine was in 1988, when George H.W. Bush of Kennebunkport defeated Democrat Michael Dukakis by twelve points. In 1992, Bill Clinton carried the state by eight points over Independent Ross Perot, with Bush finishing third. In 1996, Clinton carried the state by 21 points over Republican Bob Dole. In 2004, Democrat John Kerry carried the state by nine points over George W. Bush. In 2008, Obama carried the state by 17 points.
Paul LePage was elected governor of Maine in 2010. He netted 38 percent of the popular vote. Independent Eliot Cutler came in second place with 36 percent (fewer than 7,500 votes behind LePage) and Democrat Libby Mitchell was a distant third with 19 percent. LePage was reelected in 2014 in yet another three-way race. He netted 48 percent that year against Democratic Congressman Mike Michaud and Independent Eliot Cutler.
The Maine State Legislature boast 189 seats — 35 in the Senate and 154 in the House. Control of each chamber has switched often in the last two decades. At present, the Senate is controlled by the Republicans, with 20 seats, and the House is controlled by the Democrats, with 78 seats. All seats in both chambers are up for election every two years.
The sample consists of voters likely to participate in the 2016 election. At the start of the instrument respondents were queried as to their likelihood of voting. Only those “absolutely certain” they would vote are included.
The sample does a good job mirroring the overall population of likely voters in Maine. Some 49 percent of the respondents reside in the 1st Congressional District (the greater Portland area and along the coast to Camden, and 51 percent live in the 2nd Congressional District (Auburn, Lewiston, Bangor, northern areas and Downeast). Fifty two percent of the respondents are women and 49 percent had at least some college education. Roughly 38 percent are less than 50 years. Some 28 percent of the respondents have a household income of less than $40,000, 39 percent between $40,000 and $80,000, and 33 percent have a household income of over $80,000 per year. Overall, roughly 28 percent consider themselves Republican, 32 percent Democrat, and 39 percent Independent.
The Presidential Election
The survey asked respondents about their preference in the 2016 presidential election, offering four choices – mirroring the ballot they will see in November. Forty-two percent said they will support Democrat Hillary Clinton, 39 percent will support Republican Donald Trump, 9 percent will vote for Libertarian Gary Johnson, and 5 percent intend to support Green Party candidate Jill Stein. Only 5 percent of the respondents suggested they are undecided.
Asked if their decision reflected strong support for the candidate or merely a rejection of the opposing candidate, respondents answered as follows: Of Clinton supporters, 64 percent suggested it was a vote FOR Clinton, 35 percent said it was AGAINST Trump. Of Trump supporters, 63 percent said it was FOR Trump, and 37 percent noted their position was AGAINST Clinton.
We asked if their support for the candidate was an “enthusiastic” choice or a decision made with “reservations.” Sixty-five percent of the Clinton supporters noted it is an enthusiastic choice, 34 percent have reservations. Some 73 percent of Trump supporters are enthusiastic about their choice, 26 percent noting some reservations.
Party differences are stark, with 88 percent of Democrats supporting Hillary Clinton (3% support Trump), and 86 percent of Republicans supporting Donald Trump (4% support Clinton). Roughly 14 percent of Independents report supporting Gary Johnson.
There is a significant difference based on the respondent’s gender. Male voters overwhelmingly back Trump (50 to 33% for Clinton), while women voters heavily back Clinton (51 to 30% for Trump).
Perhaps surprisingly, there are only modest differences based on the respondent’s household income. Clinton’s highest level of support comes from those with household incomes of more than $80,000 per year (47%), but she also nets 43 percent of those with household incomes of less than $40,000 per year.
Presidential Election by Congressional District
Maine is one of two states that divide its electoral college votes by congressional district. The winner of the popular vote gets two electoral votes, with one assigned to the winner of each of the two congressional districts. This model was established in the 1972 election, but as of yet the state has never split its electoral votes.
Congressional Campaign Matchups
Of the 382 voters that were interviewed from the 1st Congressional District, 57 percent noted they will likely support Democrat candidate Chellie Pingree, and 37 percent noted they will
support Republican candidate Mark Holbrook. Some 7 percent said they are undecided.
Pingree’s support extends across demographic categories. Her highest level of support comes from self-identified Democrats (91%); those saying they are “very liberal” (95%); those with a college degree (63%); and those respondents under 35 years old (63%).
Of the 397 voters that we polled in the 2nd Congressional District, Republican candidate Bruce Poliquin netted 50 percent, Democratic candidate Emily Cain received 45 percent, and undecided made up 6 percent.
Poliquin’s support springs mostly from men (59%), self-identified republicans (92%), votes between the ages of 35 and 49 (61%), those who consider themselves “very conservative” (88%) and those with only a high school degree (59%).
Beyond her heavy support among self-identified Democrats and liberals, Cain’s support springs from women (53%), voters over 65 (58%), and those with a college degree (53%).
Maine State Legislative Races
All of Maine’s 154 House seats and 35 Senate seats are up for election in 2016. One question was used to gauge the potential outcome of these contests. We asked, “There will also be an election for members of the Maine State Legislature. As things stand today, do you anticipate voting for Democratic or Republican candidates?” Roughly 43 percent noted democrat, 39 percent Republican, 14 percent mixed, and only 4 percent unsure/undecided.
It should be noted that sweeping assessments of this sort, while common, are of modest value when it comes to individual match-ups. Questions like this offer a glimpse of partisan mood of the electorate – a political barometer, so to speak.
What is perhaps most interesting about these results is the small percentage who are unsure – just 4 percent.
In yet another effort to gauge the partisan mood of the Maine electorate, and to get a hint at the next state-wide contests, we asked two questions about 2018. That election will feature an open seat race for governor and a U.S. Senate contest for the seat currently held by Independent Angus King.
We note that it is certainly early and that a lot of things could change, but if the race of the U.S. Senate was between Republican Paul LePage and Independent Angus King, who would the respondent likely support? King was favored by 59 percent of the respondents, LePage 37 percent, and just 4 percent were undecided.
Support for King extends across all demographic categories and geographic areas. His highest support was among self-identified Democrats. Some 94 percent of this group said they would vote to reelect the senator. It is also noteworthy that
68 percent of self-identified moderates would support King against LePage.
Regarding the open seat race for governor, we asked, “All things being equal, do you see yourself voting for the Republican candidate, the Democratic candidate, and Independent candidate, or is it too early to know for sure?” The results are noted on the right:
We asked standard approval ratings questions for four public officials. The figures below summarize findings.
Assessments of Governor Paul LePage
Given recent incidents related to Paul LePage’s comments about race, and those that he left on a Democratic legislator’s voicemail, we thought it important to assess the public perception of the governor.
Beyond the approval rating of 40 percent (see above), we asked how much confidence the respondent had in the governor’s leadership. We used a binary question: “Do you have confidence or no confidence in Paul LePage’s ability to govern?” Some 40 percent of the respondents noted that they had confidence in his leadership and 54 percent noted that they did not have confidence in his leadership.
Two of the most important controls on this topic seem to be gender and geography. Just 32 percent of women report having confidence in the governor (63 percent saying they do not have confidence in him). For men, the percentage is 49 percent confidence, 44 percent no confidence.
As for geography, some 36 percent of voters in the 1st Congressional District have confidence in the governor, compared to 58 percent from the voters in the 2nd Congressional District.
We asked about the tone of Maine politics since the governor was elected. The question read, “During Paul LePage’s time as governor, has the level of civility in Maine politics gotten much better, gotten better, stayed the same, or worse or gotten much worse?” The results are noted in the figure to the right.
We also asked respondents which of the following statements best reflects their view: “I like elected officials who make compromises with people they disagree with, or I like politicians who stick to their principles.” Some 55 percent of Mainers prefer the compromise position. There were, however, significant differences among groups of voters. Women, for example, were much more likely to take the “compromise” position than men (61 to 49 percent). Democrats and liberals were also much more supportive of compromise. For example, some 73 percent of liberals take this position, but only 16 percent of conservatives did the same. Finally, those with household incomes of over $80,000 were more supportive of compromise than those in households making less than $40,000 (61 o 46 percent).
First, we asked whether the respondent thought the Maine was headed in the right direction or off on the wrong track. The results are noted in the figure below:
Several controls stand out. For example, younger voters appear to be much more optimistic than older Mainers. Republicans and conservatives were much more likely to say things are moving in the right direction. Some 74 percent of the respondents that have confidence in Paul LePage believe the state is moving in the right direction.
A recent hot-button issue in the state has been the designation of nearly 90,000 acres of wilderness as a national monument. We ask, “Recently, a portion of Maine’s north woods was designated as a national monument. Do you agree or disagree with this move?” It seems that President Obama’s action is widely supported by Mainers. Roughly 59 percent of Maine voters agreed with this decision. In fact, the support for the designation spans across most demographic groups. Regarding one’s place of residence, some 69 percent of respondents from the 1st CD support the move, and 49 percent of the respondents in the 2nd CD back the measure (compared to 41 percent who oppose it).
Finally, we asked an open-ended question about issues. “Which one issue is the most important issue facing residents of Maine?” The value of open-ended questions is that they offer a full range of unfiltered responses. This question, one might say, taps directly into what is really on the mind of the respondent. However, coding is difficult with open-ended questions, so much time will be needed to carefully assess the full range of responses. The preliminary results from voice recording seem to indicate the following:
- The most pressing issue for Maine constituents is economic growth and job creation. Roughly half of the respondents indicated frustration with the economic climate in Maine. Within this, concerns ranged from lack of job opportunities for younger populations to the need for a higher minimum wage.
- Respondents also frequently commented on Paul LePage’s administration. These responses were strongly polarizing; some were in support of his administration while others were critical. Constituents on both sides appeared to be frustrated with the lack of compromise in both local and national politics.
- Healthcare and social services appeared often as well. These respondents indicated the need for more affordable healthcare particularly elderly care. Additional critiques regarding social services indicated frustration over abuse of state resources.
- Other issues included drug abuse, immigration, education reform, climate change, gun rights and access to reproductive healthcare.