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Colby Poll: Biden Leads Trump By 13 Points Statewide, Senate Race In Statistical Dead Heat

Andrew Harnik
Associated Press
Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden greets supporters at a drive-in rally at Cellairis Amphitheatre in Atlanta, Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020.

A new poll from Colby College indicates that Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden is improving his numbers in Maine, while the U.S. Senate race is as close as ever.

The survey of 879 respondents shows that Biden leads statewide in Maine, 51% to Republican Donald Trump’s 38%. Biden also has a four-point edge in the 2nd Congressional District, 46% to 42%, where Trump is trying to garner a single electoral vote as he did four years ago.

The poll shows that the Senate race continues to be very close, with Democrat Sara Gideon leading Republican Susan Collins 46% to 43% — a statistical dead heat. Colby College professor Dan Shea thinks it’s likely that the race will be settled by ranked-choice voting, with independents Lisa Savage and Max Linn polling at 5% and 2% respectively and 4% still undecided.

The poll also asked about races in the state’s two congressional districts. Both incumbent Chellie Pingree in the 1st District and Jared Golden in the 2nd District had leads of 20 points or more over their Republican challengers.

Mal Leary spoke with Colby government professor Dan Shea about the survey, which had a margin of error of just over 3%.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

Shea: We find that Vice President Biden has jumped up a little bit statewide. We have him now at 51% and President Donald Trump at 38%. So there’s been a little bit of a change statewide. And in the 2nd Congressional District we also see Biden jumping up a little bit. He’s at 46%, and Trump right now is at 42%. In both of those cases statewide, and then in CD2, about 9% of respondents are undecided.

Leary: So does it tell you that it’s pretty certain that Vice President Biden will take the state as a whole, but it’s still a little bit close in the 2nd District?

Absolutely. I think you’re right on both counts. I would be very surprised — I think many Mainers would be very surprised — if Biden didn’t win the state. But the 2nd Congressional District is within the margin of error. I think it’s going to be close. I think that the visit from President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence may help with some persuasion, but it may be more important when it comes to turnout. It’s entirely possible that those visits will create some energy and some excitement in the 2nd CD. And I think that’s going to be a nail biter. That’ll be a close one. We’ll be watching that one.

And so will we be watching the Senate race, which seems to be about at the same place it was when you started polling the race months and months ago.

Yeah, and $160 million later, right? Yeah, you’re right. So we’ve done four polls. The first poll back in February had Sara Gideon down about four points. Since then, since early spring, we’ve had Gideon up about three or four points, and that’s where she is now. We have her at 47% and Susan Collins at 43%, Max Linn at 2% and Lisa Savage at 5%. So this is also essentially within the margin of error — tight.

And you also asked the ranked-choice voting question, about how they might vote on the second round. And what does that tell you?

A little bit more clarity on this one, and I’m glad you raised that issue, because I think it’s entirely possible, probably likely, that this may come down to the ranked-choice process. So 7% of the electorate right now think they’ll vote for either Linn or Savage. We’re finding that most of the Savage voters, their second choice is Gideon. We think if it does move to ranked-choice voting, given that Savage is at 5%, Linn is at 2%, we think that’s a bit of an advantage for Gideon.

But it still seems to be coming down to the age-old question that you’ve talked about before: who gets their vote out on Election Day, as well as those who have already gotten their vote out through absentees?

That’s exactly right. There are a couple of variables. First off, there’s 4% in the Senate race that remains undecided. I can’t imagine who they would be after all these ads and these commercials, but there’s still 4% of Mainers who haven’t made up their minds on the Senate race. So that’s out there. But the bigger issue is who’s going to turn out their vote. If Collins is able to push hard in her base, in the 2nd Congressional District, she may return to Washington. Conversely, if the Gideon campaign can really energize her supporters, the Biden supporters, mostly in the southern part of the state, she’s going to wind up with a new job.

When you look at the internal statistics, as I’ve been trying to look at from the race, it doesn’t seem that Sen. Collins has made up any ground with women, which, of course, was crucial to her first election back in 1996.

Yeah, you’re right about that, and we’ve highlighted that in a couple of our polls, that she wasn’t doing well with women, and young women in particular. We did find in this poll, however, that some of those numbers have rebounded. She’s still trailing behind Gideon with women, and young women in particular. But it really isn’t quite as bad, quite the gap that it was three or four months ago.

When you look at how this is all going to play out, it seems pretty clear that it’s going to go to ranked-choice voting.

I think so. Neither Collins nor Gideon has been able been able to cross that 50% threshold. So the highest percentage that Gideon’s got is 47%. She’s close. Again, turnout might change that, and there were 4% undecided. Historically, undecided tend to move toward the challenger instead of the incumbent — things are very different these days, but historically, undecided tend to break for the challenger. She might nudge over that 50%. Of course, Sen. Collins could do that as well, with a big turnout. These numbers could change. Four or five days in a campaign can be a long time. This is a really tight race. But if you were to ask me right now, my best guess is that neither candidate will cross the 50% threshold, and we’ll turn to the ranked-choice process. In that case, I think it’s entirely likely that the Savage voters could really hold the balance of power. It’s entirely likely that the smaller group of Savage voters will wind up picking the next senator from the state of Maine.

Journalist Mal Leary spearheads Maine Public's news coverage of politics and government and is based at the State House.