At left, Democratic Rep. Jared Golden, at right, Democratic Gov. Janet Mills. Credit: BDN Composite

AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Janet Mills and Rep. Jared Golden of Maine’s 2nd District held narrower leads in a poll released on Friday that shows the Democrats in decent position to win their Tuesday elections despite economic strife dominating the 2022 cycle.

It was no surprise that Maine’s two top races were tighter in this poll relative to earlier ones, since undecided voters are beginning to dwindle. But 9 percent were still undecided in the 2nd District, making for deep uncertainty in Golden’s contest with former Rep. Bruce Poliquin, even though the incumbent figures to benefit from ranked-choice voting.

The results were still positive for Maine Democrats, who faced a brutal environment in the spring amid skyrocketing prices and basement-level approval for President Joe Biden. They gained in the summer after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned federal abortion rights. Over the past month, Republicans have surged nationally with an increased focus on costs and inflation.

The survey, conducted by SurveyUSA for the electoral reform group FairVote and shared exclusively with the Bangor Daily News, found Mills with 49 percent support to 43 percent for former Republican Gov. Paul LePage and 4 percent for independent longshot Sam Hunkler. Only 5 percent of voters were undecided.

Ranked-choice voting will not be used in that race, but it will be used in the 2nd District, where Golden had 43 percent support in a first round of voting to 40 percent for his Republican predecessor and 8 percent for independent Tiffany Bond.

In 2018, Golden trailed Poliquin narrowly after the first round of voting but won the race after handily winning the second-choice position on many of the voters who picked Bond and another independent first. In this survey, roughly two-thirds of Bond’s voters ranked a second choice. Golden gained 80 percent of them.

election coverage

Setting aside all undecided voters, that was enough for Golden to win an 8-point victory over Poliquin after a ranked-choice count in this scenario. But there will be danger for Golden if undecided voters break heavily for Poliquin on Tuesday, since the poll suggests it would be difficult for Golden to overcome a 3- or 4-point deficit in the first round.

The poll of 1,116 likely Maine voters was conducted by phone and online from Oct. 28 through Wednesday. On a statewide level, it had an error margin of 3.7 percentage points. The Bangor Daily News has partnered with FairVote on polls before and had input on the questions asked.

Relatively few public polls have been released to date in Maine’s biggest races. Mills saw small leads over LePage in the spring that have expanded into the double digits from September on. Golden has led in each of the three public polls in his race since April.

The 2nd District is generally seen as the more competitive race. Outside groups spent more in the northern population half of Maine last week than any other House district in the nation at $5.4 million. FiveThirtyEight gives Golden a 63 percent chance of winning, while it has Mills at a 91 percent bet to earn a second term over LePage, a former two-term governor.

The two Democrats are hanging onto those positions despite 47 percent of Maine voters citing the economy as their major issue. Threats to democracy was second at 12 percent and abortion rights next at 10 percent. Two-thirds of LePage voters cited the economy to 30 percent of Mills voters. Another 31 percent of Mills supporters cited democracy and 20 percent said abortion.

our guide to the 2022 election

Democrats and Republicans were deeply split on who to blame most for high costs. Overall, 43 percent said federal elected officials, 36 percent said oil, electric and other companies, 7 percent said world leaders and 4 percent said state leaders.

But three-fourths of LePage voters pointed to federal leaders, while 59 percent of Mills’ backers blamed corporations most. Only 5 percent of LePage supporters blamed state officials most.

Full results and crosstabs from the poll can be viewed here. The poll was paid for by FairVote, a group that supports ranked-choice voting, and done by SurveyUSA, a pollster with an A grade from FiveThirtyEight.

Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after three years as a reporter at the Kennebec Journal. A Hallowell native who now lives in Augusta, he graduated from the University of Maine in...