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With less than one week to go in possibly the country’s most hotly contested campaign – Maine’s United States Senate race – a new poll released today by Colby College found the two leading candidates to be nearly in a dead heat. The poll, which was developed and fielded by Colby College, showed that the current speaker of the Maine House of Representatives, Democratic Sara Gideon, has a narrow three-point lead over her Republican opponent, four-term incumbent United States Senator Susan Collins.

Gideon received 46.6 percent of the vote, with Collins netting 43.4 percent.  Independent candidate Lisa Savage received 4.7 percent, Max Linn, another independent candidate, netted 1.7 percent, with 3.6 percent undecided. The poll, which was conducted October 21-25 and is the fourth in a series of Maine election surveys by Colby College, surveyed 879 likely voters.  Roughly one-third were called on either landlines or cell phones, and the other two-thirds were contacted online. The margin of error is 3.3 percent.

“After more than $160 million coming in from all corners of the country, massive media attention, and untold hours of hard work, the race will probably come down to an age-old truism,” said Dan Shea, Colby College Government Department chair and lead researcher on the poll. “It’s all about turnout.”

Shea added that as might be expected this close to the election, the number of undecided voters has nearly evaporated. “The race has been extremely tight for months and has only gotten tighter. The campaigns have shifted from persuasion to mobilization.”

Ranked-Choice Voting Could Decide the Election

Using a ranked-choice process, the poll found that Lisa Savage voters selected Gideon as their second choice roughly 51 percent of the time, Max Linn 29 percent of the time, and Susan Collins 13 percent of the time. Linn voters, a much smaller cohort, cast their votes in a less consistent way.

“Given the closeness of the race, and the fact that minor-party candidates will probably net about seven percent of the overall vote, it’s likely the ranked-choice process will matter,” said Shea. “In our opinion, this may help Gideon more than Collins.”

Shea noted that Savage has run on a progressive platform, asking her voters to rank Gideon second, while Max Linn has an ideologically diverse set of policy positions and often attacked Collins.  

The Most Expensive Electoral Vote In the Country 

The Colby College poll also assessed the state of the presidential race. Overall, Joe Biden received 51 percent statewide with Donald Trump netting 38 percent. Some 4 percent mentioned one of the minor-party candidates, and 8 percent remain undecided.

However, Maine splits its electoral votes and the race in the Second Congressional District is much narrower. There, Biden netted 46 percent and Trump garnered 42 percent of respondents. An additional 4 percent indicated they would vote for one of the minor-party candidates, and 9 were undecided.

“Four years ago, President Trump won Maine’s Second CD with relative ease,” noted Nicholas Jacobs, another Colby faculty researcher working on the poll. “However, right now Joe Biden has a real shot at taking it away from him. There is a reason why both campaigns are running hard there. With almost one in every ten voters still undecided, and a third of ballots already cast, these last-minute appeals will determine the winner. It is probably going to be the most expensive electoral college vote in the country.” 

Additional Findings

As for the two Maine House of Representative races, the poll found Democrats Chellie Pingree of the First Congressional District and Jared Golden of the Second Congressional District far ahead of their opponents. Pingree netted 58 percent of the vote to Republican Jay Allen’s 31 percent, while Golden received 56 percent to his Republican opponent Dale Craft’s 31 percent.

Roughly one-third of the respondents reported that they had already voted, with some 69 percent saying they were “very enthusiastic” about voting in this election and 18 percent indicating they were “somewhat enthusiastic.”

Beyond so-called horserace issues, the poll also explored a list of preferred candidate traits.  One characteristic that garnered overwhelming support from the respondents related to how work gets done in politics. To that end, some 87 percent said it was preferable to have officials who seek compromise solutions versus officials who stick to party platforms. 

Full results, including cross-tabulations with key political and demographic categories, can be found at colby.edu/government/2020-polling.