Republican Sen. Susan Collins has a 12-point lead over Democrat Tom Allen in her re-election bid, while Democrat Chellie Pingree has a 21-point lead over Republican Charlie Summers in the race for Allen’s seat in the 1st Congressional District, according to a new poll released Thursday.
The poll by Critical Insights, a Portland market research firm, found 54 percent of those surveyed supported the incumbent Collins, and 42 percent supported Allen, a six-term congressman who is hoping to unseat Collins in the Nov. 4 election.
The results are similar to those of a Critical Insights’ poll earlier this year, when Collins was given a 14-point lead. They also fall in line with other polls that show Collins with a double-digit lead, said Mary Ellen FitzGerald, president of Critical Insights.
“Everything I see and hear tells me a 10- or 11-point spread,” FitzGerald said. “I have no reason to doubt that spread.”
Carol Andrews, spokeswoman for Allen’s campaign, said recent independent polls show “wildly erratic results typical of a pre-election environment.” Another independent poll released this week gave Collins a lead of nearly 21 percentage points.
“We are unconcerned and undeterred as we know that we are making the case with Maine voters that if they seek change they have to vote for it, and they won’t get it by voting with Susan Collins,” Andrews said.
Kevin Kelley, spokesman for Collins’ campaign, said the poll results giving Collins leads in northern and southern Maine show that she has strong support statewide.
“Each and every public poll has shown Sen. Collins with a sizable lead,” he said.
The telephone poll of 443 likely voters was conducted between Oct. 16 and 19. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.
In the presidential race, the survey gave Democrat Barack Obama a statewide lead of 56 percent to 35 percent over Republican John McCain. Obama held a 23-point lead in the 1st Congressional District and a 20-point lead in the 2nd Congressional District.
Recent visits to Maine by Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin and her husband, Todd Palin, on behalf of the McCain campaign appear to have had a “negligible” effect, the poll analysis said.
In the 1st District race, Pingree leads Summers 56 percent to 35 percent, the poll says. In the 2nd District race, incumbent Democrat Mike Michaud leads Republican John Frary 64 percent to 23 percent.
The poll also shows that Mainers support, by a margin of 48 percent to 39 percent, a repeal of a newly enacted tax on beer, wine and soda to support the state’s Dirigo health initiative, which aims to provide insurance to those who can’t otherwise afford it. The referendum appears as Question 1 on the November ballot.
The economy is by far the top issue facing the state, according to the poll.
Fifty-one percent of those surveyed said the economy and jobs is the No. 1 issue in the presidential election, followed by ethics and government corruption (8 percent), health care (7 percent), national security/terrorism (5 percent) and Iraq (5 percent).
Gov. John Baldacci’s approval rating rose to 43 percent, up from 39 percent in a Critical Insights poll last spring. However, 47 percent of those polled said they disapprove of the governor’s performance.