The economy has replaced the pandemic as the top concern of Maine voters, with more than half of those surveyed believing it is going to get worse before it gets better, according to a twice-a-year poll of state voters released Monday.
“Financial issues are now, by far, the most prominent concerns for Mainers overall,” concluded the Spring 2022 Critical Insights on Maine public poll. “No non-economic concern – including the coronavirus – is top-of-mind for more than a handful of voters.”
When asked the most important issue facing Mainers today, 41 percent of the 622 Maine voters surveyed by Digital Research Inc. of Portland in March and April cited the economy or a specific economic concern, such as affordable housing, gas prices, inflation or cost of living.
And they don’t expect it to get better any time soon, polling results show.
“Fully half of voters in Maine believe the economy will get worse over the next year, and just two out of 10 believe it will improve,” the report concluded. “Only in the spring of 2020 – at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic – have so many voters been pessimistic about the future of the economy.”
The pessimism runs deeper than just the economy: 41 percent of voters think Maine is headed in the wrong direction overall, the highest level since fall 2015, poll results show. Only 27 percent of voters think Maine is headed in the right direction.
Only 5 percent of Maine voters named COVID-19 as their chief concern in the spring 2022 poll. That is down from 17 percent in fall 2022, when it was still Mainers’ No. 1 worry. Concern over COVID-19 peaked at 54 percent in spring 2020, just as the virus was first hitting Maine.
Other non-economic issues that voters found more pressing than COVID-19 this spring include the environment and climate change, infrastructure concerns like transportation and internet accessibility, and drugs and the opioid crisis.
The latest poll also includes a snapshot of some of the state’s top political campaigns. It found incumbent Democratic Gov. Janet Mills and former Republican Gov. Paul LePage, who is seeking a third non-consecutive term, are in a dead heat in the November election.
According to the poll, 42 percent of those surveyed said they would vote for Mills if the election were held today compared to 39 percent for LePage, with 13 percent still undecided. Six percent said they will vote for an independent gubernatorial candidate, even though none is on the ballot.
Mills has a 23-point lead in the 1st Congressional District, while LePage holds a 17-point lead in the 2nd.
Mills’ job approval rating has fallen to 46 percent, the lowest it’s ever been, but just a point below what it was before the pandemic. The percent of Mainers who disapprove of how Mills is doing her job is higher than ever before, too, at 41 percent – 10 points higher than it was three years ago.
Maine’s representatives to the U.S. House, Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, and Jared Golden, D-2nd District, earned approval ratings of 43 and 41 percent, respectively, with Pingree dropping a bit from her pandemic highs and Golden at the same performance ratings as during the pandemic.
Although her numbers have improved since last fall, Republican Sen. Susan Collins’ unfavorable rating of 46 percent still outweighs her 34 percent approval rating, the only member of Maine’s congressional delegation who has an upside-down rating. Independent Angus King is the most popular, at a 55 percent approval rating.
Digital Research polled 622 registered Maine voters from across the state between March 14 and April 7 by telephone and online form to obtain this data. Those polled are chosen to reflect the demographics of the state’s population. Results have a margin of sampling error of 3.9 percent.