AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage’s approval rating has increased by 16 percent since this spring, according to a tracking poll released Wednesday, proof that many Mainers support the direction he’s leading the state, his staff said.
The Critical Insights poll conducted Oct. 18-23 asked 600 likely Maine voters a series of questions about LePage, the economy and other political issues, both national and in-state.
The questions mirrored a Critical Insights tracking poll from this spring that showed 31 percent of Mainers approved of LePage. That number is now 47 percent.
“The people of Maine have had an opportunity to experience Governor LePage’s leadership on the economy and budget reform that centers on the governor’s efforts to create more jobs,” said Brent Littlefield, LePage’s senior political adviser. “Governor LePage will continue his tremendous focus on job creation through improving education, reducing energy costs and moving Maine government in the direction of helping, not hindering, job creators.”
Men, less highly educated Mainers and the youngest residents polled were most likely to approve of the job the governor is doing, according to the poll. Conversely, women, college graduates and residents who are 35 years old older were more likely to disapprove. The poll’s margin of error was plus or minus 4 percent.
“It’s no surprise that Governor LePage’s approval ratings have gone up since the spring,” said Ben Grant, chairman of the Maine Democratic Party. “We aren’t in session, so people aren’t reminded of how bad his policies are for Maine. The moment we’re back in session and the impact of his policies are being felt his number will go down again.”
But Littlefield said he has seen other polling data that put the governor’s approval rating above 50 percent and pointed out that Portland-based Critical Insights is widely thought of as a Democratic-leaning pollster.
“The Critical Insights numbers only confirm a trend of positive approval numbers for the governor,” he said. “Maine people realize that having a successful businessman as governor, someone who has actually created jobs sitting in the governor’s chair, provides the people of Maine their best shot at improving the state’s economy.”
President Barack Obama did not fare as well among Mainers in the recent poll.
His favorability rating of 43 percent was the lowest it has been during his presidency and well below the national average of 54 percent. On economic issues, only 36 percent of those polled had a positive view of how the president is handling the economy while 54 percent disapproved.
The poll also asked Mainers about the biggest concerns they face. Forty-four percent said unemployment, 35 percent said the economy. Other answers included taxation, education and health care, but none of those answers received more than 10 percent.
When asked to provide specific fears about the economy, the most common answers were job loss, cost-of-living increases and increasing gas prices. Only one in 10 felt the economy has improved in the last 12 months while 47 percent said it’s doing worse.
Grant said the poll results on economic issues don’t seem to match up with the support shown for LePage.
“LePage and Republicans ran on a platform of jobs,” he said. “Jobs, jobs, jobs, that’s all they ever talked about, yet the polls shows that more Mainers are worried about the unemployment now than they have been since 2000.”
Finally, the Critical Insights poll took Mainers’ temperature on a pair of November ballot questions.
On Question 1, which asks voters whether they want to reject a new law that eliminates Election Day registration, 51 percent supported a veto while 43 percent said they wanted to keep the new law in place.
Mark Gray, manager of the Yes on 1 campaign, said the poll was good news.
“Throughout this campaign, we’ve heard from Mainers that Election Day registration works,” he said.
On Question 4, which asks voter to support or reject a constitutional amendment that updates the congressional and legislative redistricting process, voters were less committal. Thirty-three percent said they planned to vote no, 32 percent said they would vote yes and 35 percent didn’t know.