Polls examining the election for Maine Governor have been telling a consistent story for months: it’s a two-way race between Republican Governor LePage and Democratic Congressman Mike Michaud, with Eliot Cutler a distant third. At this point, LePage’s best chance of winning is if progressive and moderate voters split the vote between Michaud and Cutler.
But why is this the case, and who are the voters and what are the issues that will decide this election in November? A survey released by the Maine People’s Resource Center in August provides a clear picture, showing that women’s votes are key and many of the issues they care most about are basic everyday issues like increasing the minimum wage and affordable health care.
Among men, LePage led in the poll with a 6-point margin. It’s Michaud’s 7-point advantage among women that puts him one point ahead overall (although well within the survey’s statistical margin of error). Women also represented 75% of undecided voters in the poll.
While women have voted at a slightly higher rate than men in elections since the 1960s, they also have shown greater turnout variability, especially among younger and unmarried women.
National research has shown that it isn’t necessarily policy areas traditionally thought of as “women’s issues” that get women to the polls, and this poll confirmed that. The gender gap on issues like raising the minimum wage above $10 an hour (which 62.7% of Mainers support overall) and universal access to public pre-kindergarten (which 64.3% of Mainers support) is actually larger than on issues like whether private insurance plans should be required to cover the full cost of birth control (which 52.2% of all Mainers support).
The poll also found strong support among all demographics for requiring companies to allow workers to earn paid sick days, accepting federal health care funds and promoting policies that allow Maine seniors to age with dignity in their own homes. Majorities of Mainers also reported that they had acted as family caregivers and had worked when they were sick because they couldn’t afford to take time off.
What this all means is that this close election may be decided by turnout among women voters, especially young women who don’t always vote. They may be motivated to make it to the polls if the candidates talk about the issues that matter most to their everyday lives – things like jobs, health care and wages.
The poll of 796 likely Maine voters was conducted July 26-28 and has a +/-3.47% margin of error.