Republican Sen. Susan Collins (left) and Democratic candidate Sara Gideon at their podiums during the Decision Maine Senate debate in Portland on Sept. 11. Credit: Brianna Soukup / Portland Press Herald

AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine’s ranked-choice voting system could put Democrats over the top in close and targeted races for U.S. Senate and one presidential elector from the swing 2nd Congressional District, according to a poll released Thursday.

The poll, conducted by SurveyUSA for the electoral reform group FairVote and shared exclusively with the Bangor Daily News, shows House Speaker Sara Gideon with a one-percentage-point lead over fourth-term Sen. Susan Collins in Maine’s U.S. Senate race while former Vice President Joe Biden leads President Donald Trump by three points in the 2nd Congressional District.

Both Gideon and Biden are likely to make slight gains in the ranked-choice voting process as voters who prefer third-party candidates are more likely to list Democrats as their second choice. The former vice president has a comfortable 13-point lead statewide as a heavy favorite to win at least three of Maine’s four Electoral College votes with the other up for grabs.

The survey of 1,007 likely voters had an error margin of 3.7 percent for statewide contests. It was conducted from Oct. 23-27 by SurveyUSA, and paid for by FairVote, a nonprofit that supports ranked-choice voting and has partnered with the BDN on polling in recent years.

In the U.S. Senate race, Gideon led with 46 percent of votes compared to 45 percent for Collins. Savage came in at 4 percent and Linn at 1 percent in an initial round of voting. The Democrat has narrowly led Collins in polling all year, but her lead — well within the margin of error — is consistent with the tightening of the race in recent weeks.

Gideon made small gains, however, when the second- and third-choice votes of Linn and Savage supporters were redistributed, finishing with 51 percent compared to 49 percent for Collins. That result came after Savage supporters — 55 percent, the poll found — listed Gideon as their second choice. The former Green party member is running on a progressive platform and has suggested her supporters rank Gideon second.

Linn supporters were less consistent, with roughly equal amounts ranking Collins second, ranking Savage second and ranking no one. Linn, a Trump supporter running on an eclectic mix of populist and conservative ideas, has argued that Collins and Gideon are virtually the same.

In the presidential race, Biden held a wide lead over Trump statewide, with the former vice president coming in at 53 percent compared to 40 percent for the Republican incumbent. That would allow Biden to avoid a ranked-choice runoff in the statewide election.

However, the race is predictably closer in the more conservative 2nd District, which Trump won by 10 points in 2016. In the first round of voting, Biden led with 49 percent of the vote compared to 46 percent for Trump, while three third-party candidates finished with a combined 4 percent.

The redistribution of votes from the three third-party candidates on the Maine ballot did not seem to especially benefit Trump or Biden, the poll found, but it was enough to push the former vice president over the 50 percent threshold in the poll.

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.

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