AUGUSTA, Maine — The results of a new poll released Wednesday show growing support among voters for Maine’s gay marriage law as well as strong interest in the latest attempt to restrict the growth of government spending.
The poll by Portland-based Pan Atlantic SMS Group also found that the majority of respondents in the statewide survey believe Maine is headed in the wrong direction and that economic recovery in the state is still at least a year or two away.
Click here for the complete text of the poll.
On the issue of gay marriage, 50.6 percent of the roughly 400 survey participants indicated they planned to vote against a ballot measure that would prevent same-sex couples from marrying. That figure grew to 51.8 percent when including those who were leaning toward voting against Question 1, which would repeal Maine’s gay marriage law.
Conversely, 40.9 percent indicated they planned to vote “yes” on Question 1, thereby restricting legal marriage to one man and one woman. An additional 2 percent of respondents said they were leaning in favor of repealing Maine’s gay marriage law, which passed the Legislature in the spring but is suspended pending the Nov. 3 vote.
Roughly 5 percent of the 401 respondents — surveyed between Sept. 30 and Oct. 7 — were undecided on Question 1. The poll, which was conducted between Sept. 30 and Oct. 7, had a margin of error of 4.9 percent.
“While we are certainly encouraged, we have every reason to believe this will be a razor-thin election and that is why we are working hard to get every vote,” said Jesse Connolly, campaign manager for No on 1/Protect Maine Equality, which is working to defend Maine’s same-sex marriage law.
Mark Mutty of Stand for Marriage Maine said he was surprised by the poll’s findings and questioned their validity. His organization’s own surveys have the race as a statistical dead heat, he said. Another recent poll on the issue, released by the Daily Kos last month, gave the repeal campaign a slight edge at 48 percent versus 46 percent.
“I’m not terribly concerned at this stage of the game,” Mutty said.
The majority of people who participated in the poll also do not appear to have been swayed by Stand for Marriage Maine’s major advertising thrust. Roughly 62 percent of respondents said they do not believe gay marriage will be taught in public schools if the law is allowed to take effect.
The poll comes out one day after the latest financial disclosure reports showed gay marriage supporters with a commanding fundraising edge.
No on 1 had raised roughly $2.7 million through the end of September, more than double the $1.1 million raised by Stand for Marriage Maine, the organization leading the repeal effort. Stand for Marriage Maine also reported more than $419,000 in unpaid debts while No on 1 had more than that amount left in the bank with no outstanding debts.
Both campaigns have received significant contributions from groups and individuals outside Maine.
The Pan Atlantic poll also suggests that Mainers appear to favor a revived initiative aimed at curbing government spending.
In one of the more surprising results, 52.8 percent of respondents said they either supported or were leaning toward supporting a proposal that would require voter approval of any increases in government spending beyond the rates of inflation and population growth. Roughly 39 percent were opposed, with 8.5 percent undecided.
Known as the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, or TABOR II, the proposal is similar to a ballot initiative that failed at the polls in 2006. While supporters claim TABOR will rein in what they say is unsustainable government spending, opponents insist the restrictions will force drastic cuts to education, public safety, health care and other social services.
David Crocker, who is leading the TABOR NOW campaign, said that while the survey results were positive, he isn’t putting too much stock in them. He and other TABOR supporters will be “running like crazy through Election Day.”
“We have always felt right along that people understand TABOR this time,” Crocker said.
Jim Melcher, associate professor of political science at the University of Maine at Farmington, said it is far too early to say with any certainty which way Maine’s electorate will go on either gay marriage or TABOR.
Melcher said polling in Maine can be quite volatile and that historically the campaigns pushing for significant changes lose some steam as the election approaches. In this case, that would apply to the campaigns to support gay marriage and to pass TABOR.
“I think it shows the results are likely to be close going all the way down” to Election Day, Melcher said. He also agreed that the key factor for all campaigns will be voter turnout.
The margins were much closer in the results for Question 2, which proposes a 55 percent reduction in the excise taxes Mainers pay on vehicles less than 6 years old.
The poll found that 48.3 percent of respondents supported the initiative, which would also exempt hybrid and highly fuel-efficient vehicles from the sales tax and three years of excise taxes. Opposed were 46.1 percent of respondents.
Municipalities have warned that voter approval of the excise tax question likely would force them to either gut road maintenance and snowplowing budgets or raise property taxes.
More respondents were also in favor of scrapping Maine’s controversial school consolidation law. The results, with 46.1 percent supporting ending consolidation and 41.1 percent opposed, were just outside the poll’s margin of error.
On the issue of health care reform, 57.4 percent of respondents said they would favor a government-administered health insurance plan that would be available to anyone, compared with 37.2 percent opposed.
The Pan Atlantic poll also found:
• 51.1 percent of respondents believe Maine is headed in the wrong direction, up slightly from this spring but down from 59.8 percent in June 2008.
• 58.6 percent forecast Maine will not emerge from the recession until 2011 or later.
• 57.9 percent approved of President Barack Obama’s performance so far, down from 68.3 percent in April.
• 52.6 percent rated the state of health care in the U.S. as either “poor” or “very poor,” compared with just 18.7 percent who described it as “good” or “excellent.”