Sara Gideon (left) and Susan Collins. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik and Troy R. Bennett / BDN

A new Maine poll released Thursday shows House Speaker Sara Gideon with just a one-point lead over U.S. Sen. Susan Collins in the closest public poll of 2020 in that race, while other Democrats maintained larger margins in the state’s competitive federal races.

The survey included 800 likely voters and was conducted between Aug. 30 and Sept. 5. The survey, commissioned by AARP Maine, oversampled voters aged 50 and older, though results were weighted to match the expected electorate. The margin of error was 3.5 percent.

Initially, Gideon, a Democrat, narrowly led with 44 percent of votes, compared with 43 percent for Collins, a Republican, and with unenrolled candidate Lisa Savage coming in at 6 percent and 7 percent of voters undecided. When undecided voters were asked to pick a candidate, they were more likely to break toward Collins, but voters who picked Savage as their first choice were more likely to favor Gideon as a second choice, leaving Gideon with 48 percent compared with 47 percent for Collins.

The results indicating the race may be tightening compared to earlier this year, when Gideon led by as many as 5 percentage points among likely voters in a BDN poll last month. The House speaker has led in all public polling this year, but this lead was the narrowest and most tenuous. The poll did not include independent candidate Max Linn.

The AARP poll showed large demographic differences reflected in previous surveys, with Gideon holding a 12-point lead among women and a six-point lead among voters under 50. Collins led by 11 points in the 50-64 demographic and Gideon leading by six with voters 65 and over. The poll also showed Collins with a nine-point lead among independents at 51 percent.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, held a strong lead over President Donald Trump in Maine, the poll found, with 54 percent of votes to 40 percent for the Republican. Biden held a four-point lead in the 2nd District, which Trump won by 10 points in 2016. Biden’s lead was largest with voters over age 65, with whom he got 62 percent support statewide, compared with 32 percent for Trump.

Biden’s lead was largest with voters over age 65, with whom he got 62 percent support statewide, compared with 32 percent for Trump. Gideon also led among voters over 65, but by only six points.

In the 2nd District, first-term Rep. Jared Golden, a Democrat, maintained a lead over former state Rep. Dale Crafts, with the incumbent at 53 percent compared with 40 percent for Crafts. Golden won 59 percent of female voters in the poll, compared with just 34 percent for Crafts, but the pair were virtually tied among male voters.

Forty percent of the voters surveyed said they planned to vote absentee, while 55 percent said they planned to vote in person. Concerns about the U.S. Postal Service — which has struggled with delays amid a coronavirus-related financial crunch — may have played into that, with 63 percent of voters over the age of 50 saying they were worried that mail delays could prevent their vote from being counted.

The Postal Service recommended that Maine voters mail their ballots 15 days in advance of the election, the Maine secretary of state’s office said last month. The state is also considering providing ballot drop boxes as an alternate return option for absentee voters.