Gov. Janet Mills maintains a positive approval rating in Maine but the lowest mark among New England leaders for her handling of the coronavirus pandemic, though far fewer trust President Donald Trump’s virus response, according to a new survey.
The findings come as part of a 50-state survey of more than 21,000 adults, including 287 in Maine, over the course of August, conducted by researchers from Harvard, Rutgers and Northeastern universities. The margin of error in Maine was 7 percent.
In Maine, 54 percent approved of Mills’ handling of the virus as of late August. That was down from 67 percent in an initial late April survey, but up slightly from earlier in the summer, when approval of Mills’ response fell as low as 50 percent, the survey found.
Those numbers put Mills slightly above average, with 48.4 percent of respondents nationally approving of their governors. Both Republican and Democratic governors have seen their approval ratings decline since April, the survey found, but the drop was more dramatic for Republican governors who had not responded aggressively to the virus.
However, Republicans who responded aggressively to the virus, including Govs. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, Chris Sununu of New Hampshire and Phil Scott of Vermont, remained popular. Among New England governors, Mills ranked last, with Baker, Sununu and Scott, as well as Democrats Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island and Ned Lamont of Connecticut, all holding approval ratings of at least 60 percent.
Maine maintains a lower incidence rate of the virus than every other state except Vermont, but the politics of reopening have been more fraught in Maine than neighboring New Hampshire, which had fewer early economic restrictions than Maine. The two states, however, have seen similar recovery paths, with Maine leading its neighbor by several metrics.
Mainers still prefer Mills’ response to that of the Republican president. Only 40 percent of Mainers approved of Trump’s handling of the virus as of late August, the survey found. Another 19 percent of respondents trusted the president to do the right thing to handle the virus “a lot,” while 36 percent did not trust him on the virus at all.
The figures for Trump in Maine are slightly better for him than nationally, where only 33.7 percent approved of the president’s actions and 42.1 percent say they do not trust him at all.
Concerns about the virus remained in Maine, with 28 percent of respondents saying they were “very concerned” about getting coronavirus themselves, while 32 percent were “somewhat concerned.” Nearly 74 percent were either very or somewhat concerned about a relative catching the virus.
The majority of respondents, 55 percent, said they had not been to a gathering outside their home in the previous 24 hours. Among those who had, most gatherings were relatively small. Only 3.5 percent of Maine respondents said they had been to a gathering of 10 or more people.
Nearly 65 percent said they were following face mask recommendations “very closely” while 20 percent said “somewhat closely.” Only 5 percent of respondents said they were not following face mask recommendations at all.
Respondents were also asked how likely they were to get a coronavirus vaccine if it were available to them. Fifty-eight percent of Maine respondents said they were “extremely likely” or “somewhat likely” to get a vaccine. Generally, individuals who expressed greater trust in scientists were more likely to say they would get the vaccine, the survey found.