Democrats ahead in congressional and gubernatorial races, new poll finds

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May 26—A new poll offers hope for Democrats as this year's political campaigns in Maine begin to shape up, but it also found that undecided voters tend to lean conservative and to be focused on economic issues.

The poll, commissioned by AARP Maine, found that Democratic incumbents Gov. Janet Mills and U.S. Reps. Jared Golden and Chellie Pingree were ahead in their reelection bids May 10 to 13 when pollsters surveyed 1,050 likely Maine voters.

The polling team of the GOP-oriented Fabrizio Ward and Democrat-oriented Impact Research found Mills leading Republican challenger Paul LePage by a 51-46 margin, with women and younger voters providing her with the most support.

In the 2nd District congressional race, one of the most closely watched in the nation, Golden topped the likely GOP challenger, former U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, by a 50-43 margin. Poliquin still faces a June 14 primary against Liz Caruso of Caratunk.

Poliquin's campaign spokesman, Brent Littlefield, called the poll an outlier Thursday on Twitter, though a Pan Atlantic Research firm poll in April found Golden ahead 45-36.

Despite the public polls, most experts rate the 2nd District race as a toss-up. The Cook Political Report, for instance, counts it among 32 House districts in the nation that are so closely contested that it doesn't lean toward either party in this year's race.

The new poll found that Golden is viewed favorably by 52% of likely voters while Poliquin is viewed favorably by 32%, a significant gap.

Longtime U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree held a 57-33 lead in the 1st District race versus Republican Ed Thelander.

While Maine voters are wary about the direction of the country, with more than four in five likely voters saying the nation is headed in the wrong direction, 43% of them think Maine is moving in the right direction.

Republicans and independents cited inflation, taxes and immigration and border issues as their main concerns. Democrats named abortion, voting rights, Social Security and Medicare as their top concerns.

Only 45% of likely voters in Maine approved of the job that Democratic President Joe Biden is doing. But Democrats nonetheless have a 46-41 lead on a generic ballot — one that uses party affiliation rather than particular candidates.

In the governor's race, the poll found that among likely voters who are at least 50 years old, 14% are not certain which candidate they will vote for. Among them, nearly a third are leaning toward Mills, a third toward LePage and the rest are undecided.

The undecided group is, pollsters said, "more likely to be women, independent and are much more likely to be a self-described conservative than liberal. They are very focused on economic issues for their vote in November."

In the 2nd District, nearly a third of voters are not certain which candidate they prefer, with Poliquin holding a slight lead among those leaning one way or the other.

The poll said those who are undecided in the congressional race are "more likely to be Republican and are much more likely to be a self-described conservative than liberal. They are very focused on economic issues for their vote in November."

The two firms said they interviewed 1,050 likely Maine voters, which includes a statewide representative sample of 500 likely voters, with an oversample of 550 likely voters age 50 and older, between May 10 and 13. They conducted the interviews via land lines, cellphones and messaging.

The margin of sampling error for the 500 statewide sample was 4.4% while the 50-plus sample's margin of error was 3.3%.