The Critical Insights spring tracking survey released last week gives us our first look at the General Election presidential race in Maine. Although polls this far out are not necessarily predictive of final outcomes (a lot can happen in six months), they do provide an interesting snapshot of the current views of voters.
The poll of 610 likely voters (with a margin of error of +/- 4%, 95 times out of 100) shows Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton leading Republican front-runner Donald Trump 43% to 34%. That 9% margin is similar to an average 11% margin seen in national polling.
The other contender for the Democratic nomination, Bernie Sanders, does even better in a General Election match-up against Trump, winning 57% of the vote to Trump’s 31%. The poll memo did not break down results by Congressional District, which in Maine have the potential of splitting their Electoral College votes.
Another question on the poll may explain some of this difference. While both Clinton and Trump have negative scores when it comes to trustworthyness (26% believe Clinton is somewhat or very trustworthy and only 19% believe the same of Trump), Sanders is viewed as trustworthy by 54% of the electorate.
“We have not always tracked ‘trustworthiness’ so this this an observation based on correlations with other measures, but I think the electorate is tired, consumer confidence is lagging and the cacophony on the political stage around the election is deafening. Bernie Sanders appears to be the only candidate to be trusted by a majority of Maine’s voters.” explained pollster MaryEllen Fitzgerald when asked if these were historically low numbers for likely presidential nominees. “Uncertainty about the direction of the country is palpable among these voters. Although a majority (52%) think things are headed on the wrong track, more than a quarter of Mainers are also uncertain. This underscores a lack of faith in the political system (and leadership) at the national level.”
The differences between Sanders and Clinton on this question and on the General Election match-ups may be due in part to the strong preference for Sanders among Maine Democrats, as demonstrated by his large victory in the caucuses earlier this month. It’s likely that Clinton’s numbers among progressives will improve if she becomes her party’s nominee.
Similarly, barring a contested convention and the deep divisions it would create among Republicans, Trump’s numbers may also tick up if he wins the nomination and consolidates his party’s support.
Another interesting finding from the survey is that the cost of living has spiked as an economic concern for Mainers over the past year, going from the top concern of just 8% of voters last year to 30% today.
“My theory is that this has to do with housing,” said Fitzgerald. “The loss of affordable housing in traditionally accessible neighborhoods (ie. Munjoy Hill) and the promotion of the idea that Maine is now at ‘full employment’ are highlighting the fact that there is a perception of wage stagnation. Although gas and oil costs have diminished, housing costs and rent have soared, so that many lower income workers are having to live farther from their places of employment and commute to work. Additionally, recent press articles have highlighted new business coming to Maine, but these are call center operations that will likely pay low(er) wages.”