A new poll of Maine’s 2nd Congressional District shows former state Rep. Dale Crafts with a lead in Tuesday’s uncertain Republican primary, though one in five voters were undecided about a week before the election and the race is likely to require a ranked-choice runoff.
The poll was conducted by SurveyUSA and paid for by the electoral reform group FairVote and results were provided exclusively to the Bangor Daily News. It surveyed 604 likely Republican primary voters in the 2nd Congressional District between June 30 and July 6 with an error margin of 4.1 percent. It is the first independent public poll in the three-way primary to challenge Rep. Jared Golden, a freshman Democrat from Lewiston.
Crafts leads with 37 percent of first-round votes, the poll found, while Adrienne Bennett, who was the spokesperson for former Gov. Paul LePage, sits at 25 percent. Former state Sen. Eric Brakey, the party’s 2018 nominee for U.S. Senate, came in at 19 percent, while another 19 percent were undecided.
The race will use ranked-choice voting if no candidate gets more than 50 percent of votes. But the survey indicated that the majority of Republicans are wary of the method that has been a source of partisan contention since Golden ousted incumbent Republican Bruce Poliquin in 2018. Fifty-eight percent said it was unlikely or very unlikely that they would rank choices.
When likely voters were asked to rank second-choice candidates, Crafts seemed likely to pick up the most votes, insulating his front-runner position if the race is decided by an instant runoff. The Lisbon businessman was the second choice of 46 percent of Bennett supporters and 40 percent of Brakey supporters, though only a portion of those people may rank choices.
Crafts also held the highest overall favorability rating of the three candidates, with 55 percent of likely voters saying they had a favorable opinion of his, while only 7 percent had an unfavorable opinion.
The survey showed little differentiation between voters along gender, education, or income lines. Crafts fared better among older voters and voters who identified as very conservative, while Bennett did better with younger voters. Moderate voters were most likely to be undecided.
Though the poll shows Crafts with a clear lead, the significant percentage of undecided voters and the relatively few voters who have voted so far, suggest there is room for the race to change in its final days. The majority of voters polled — 79 percent — indicated they plan to vote in-person on Election Day on July 14.
Brakey of Auburn has led the three candidates in fundraising so far, though all three spent more than they raised over the past few months. Crafts has benefited from the high-profile endorsement of former Gov. Paul LePage. Both Brakey and Bennett have been the subject of attacks from outside groups, while Crafts has largely been unscathed.
The survey also asked voters about their views of other Republican politicians. Among a sample of all registered Republicans, not just likely primary voters, 82 percent had a favorable opinion of President Donald Trump, while 11 percent had an unfavorable opinion. Sixty-five percent had a favorable view of U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, with 14 percent holding an unfavorable view of the Republican senator, who is facing re-election later this year.
Golden, who narrowly prevailed in 2018 in a seat Trump won by 10 points in 2016, is one of national Republicans’ top targets. An April poll from Critical Insights gave the freshman Democrat a positive approval rating, with 42 percent of constituents approving of his performance while 19 percent disapproved.
Full results and crosstabs from the poll can be viewed here. The poll was commissioned by FairVote, a group that supports ranked-choice voting, and results were provided exclusively to the Bangor Daily News.