In newest poll, Collins leads Bellows, even among Democrats

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins and her 2014 Democratic opponent, Shenna Bellows. Reuters photo (Collins) by Joshua Roberts. BDN photo (Bellows) by Troy Bennett. Photo illustration by Mario Moretto.

Yesterday’s gubernatorial survey results from Public Policy Polling didn’t shed much new light on next year’s three-way race. But PPP always releases its findings in two-day pairs, and today’s data dump is much more interesting. 

According to the left-leaning polling house, Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins has a 14-point lead over her 2014 opponent Shenna Bellows … among Democrats. I’m not sure I can think of a better illustration to show just how hard it’s going to be to dethrone Maine’s senior senator.

Collins leads Bellows, who until recently was the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine, at an overall spread of 59-20, with 22 percent undecided. She edges the Democrat by 38 points among independents, Maine’s largest political bloc, and by a whopping 71 points among Republicans.

Collins only real barrier to sailing back into office is the threat of a GOP primary, but that threat isn’t looking very credible at the moment. No Republican with any stock has announced, publicly anyway, that they’d seek to primary Collins. If they did, it could be interesting: The GOP voters surveyed gave Collins a lower approval rating than did the Democrats polled, and 44 percent of Republicans polled said they’d prefer someone “more conservative” than Collins.

Nearly half of all Republicans surveyed said they thought Collins shouldn’t even be in their party.

PPP conducted its survey over the weekend, calling 964 Maine voters, including 331 Republicans (that number matters when we get into questions about a potential GOP primary). The overall margin of error is +/- 3.2 percent, with a MOE of 5.4 percent in the Republicans-only portion of the poll.

The firm has generally received plaudits for being among the most accurate in the country, though some poll-watchers have criticized the group for skewing toward the polling average. In 2012, it was named the most accurate polling group in the nation for its final national pre-election estimates.  More recently, PPP came under attack for withholding poll results that showed a Colorado Democrat losing by a wide margin. The group said it didn’t trust the poll and shelved it. The poll ended up being correct, and the kinds of people who care about this sort of thing howled at PPP for pulling a poll for such squishy, unscientific reasons.

With those caveats aside, here are some other interesting findings from the poll (read the whole thing, with cross-tabs, here).

  • We live in a crazy world, where there is a presumptive Democratic nominee for president two whole years before the election, and that’s Hilary Clinton. PPP pitted Hilary against four high-profile Republicans to see how she’d fare if the election were held today. She won each head-to-head, though N.J. Gov. Chris Christie gave her the most trouble. She still won that match-up 47-39. Christie is also the candidate that earns the most support among Republicans, who favor him over eight other top GOP contenders by a wide margin.
  • First-term Independent Sen. Angus King joined Collins among the ranks of the “most popular senators” according to PPP’s surveys. King’s favorable/unfavorable rating was 54/25, making him the tenth-most popular senator, according to the release. Collins’ 61/27 score puts her in the top five. 
  • Mainers still feel mostly “live and let live” about gay marriage a year after it was made legal here. Even among the 37 percent of those polled who said they didn’t think gay marriage should be legal, 70 percent said its presence had no negative effect on their lives. Overall, 72 percent said allowing same-sex couples to tie the knot had no impact on them whatsoever. I’m always a little skeptical of self-reported feelings on gay marriage, because I think the social desirability bias is a very real thing. Still, if I’m an LGBT activist, those are encouraging numbers.
Mario Moretto

About Mario Moretto

Mario Moretto has been a Maine journalist, in print and online publications, since 2009. He joined the Bangor Daily News in 2012, first as a general assignment reporter in his native Hancock County and, now, in the State House. Mario left the BDN in 2015.