Posted by Ashley Houghton on October 29, 2020 at 9:12 AM

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
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Ashley Houghton
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Ranked Choice Poll in Maine Shows Collins And Gideon Neck-And-Neck, Slight Lead For Biden Over Trump in Maine’s CD-2

Poll Indicates Broad Support For Ranking Candidates And Values Behind Ranked Choice Voting Reform

Portland, Maine; October 29, 2020 -- A new SurveyUSA poll commissioned by FairVote, a nonpartisan organization that advocates for electoral reforms in the United States, indicates both the Maine Senate race and the presidential battle to win Maine’s second congressional district are very competitive.

Findings and analysis from the poll can be found on FairVote’s website with an interactive format allowing users to easily use the ranked data among all voters and key demographics. A full list of survey responses and cross-tabs can be found via SurveyUSA.

KEY FINDINGS:

  • Sara Gideon currently holds a narrow lead. In the hotly-contested U.S. Senate race, Gideon starts with a small lead over Sen. Susan Collins in the first round, and expands her lead to 51% - 49% in the final “instant runoff” round. Results are within the survey’s margin of error. Both Gideon and Collins benefit from second- and third-choice support from voters, but progressive independent Lisa Savage earns far more first choice support than conservative Max Linn.
  • Joe Biden is favored to earn at least 3 of 4 electoral votes. Maine will use ranked choice voting for the presidential election for the first time, with two electoral votes going to the statewide winner and one electoral vote to the winner of each congressional district. Biden has first-round majorities in the statewide tally and in the first congressional district. The second congressional district appears likely to need multiple rounds to determine a majority winner. In the survey’s ranked choice tally for the second district, Biden expands his 49% first-round total to a 51%-49% lead in the “instant runoff.” Donald Trump's only chance to win an electoral vote from Maine is to gain ground in the second district.
  • Signs of Trump defection among Republicans. Only 80% of supporters of Collins in the Senate race chose Trump as their first choice for president. Of the 20% of Collins supporters who did not rank Trump first, their most common second choice was “no 2nd choice” rather than Trump. In contrast, 93% of Gideon supporters ranked Biden first.
  • Rankings vary by office. 57% of respondents indicated they plan to rank at least two choices in the senate race, but only 39% ranked presidential candidates. Supporters of the non-major-party candidates are most likely to rank additional choices, with at least 70% of this group using multiple rankings - as makes sense, given the major party candidates are sure to make the final instant runoff. The group least likely to rank is Trump supporters, only 29% of whom indicated a second choice.
  • Support for ranked choice voting grows. Large majorities of Mainers believe it is important that candidates win with a majority (75.4%) and that ranking candidates is easy (80.0%). All age groups showed high levels of understanding of ranked choice voting. Early in the survey, however, only a slim majority of those with an opinion indicate they prefer ranked choice voting. At the end of the survey, after questions about the value of majority rule. Voters supported being able to rank candidates in this election by a margin of over 20%.

FairVote’s president and CEO Rob Richie commented on the findings: “This poll shows that in Maine, every vote will count, and candidates must compete for every vote to win. No voter will lose their voice in the final decision simply due to wanting to support a third party or independent candidate. It marks a sharp contrast to many races across the country, where we see both Democrats and Republicans seeking to weaponize third party candidates as a tool to win elections without a majority.”

Anna Kellar, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Maine, added: “We are pleased that so many Maine voters continue to value ranked choice voting and the opportunity to rank their candidate choices. This shows strong support for its fundamental values, which helps explain why 81% of voters in Portland this year voted to expand ranked choice voting in their city elections. RCV is now becoming the norm in Maine for future elections.”

SurveyUSA interviewed 1,200 adults statewide 10/23/2020 through 10/27/2020. Notably, this poll was conducted before last night’s Senate debate between incumbent Susan Collins and challenger Sara Gideon; neither of the independent candidates were invited to participate. The poll’s margin of error largely ranged from 2.1% to 3.7%, depending upon the question asked.

In July, FairVote’s poll with SurveyUSA of the Republican primary in the second congressional district accurately forecasted the results in the final instant runoff. On election night next week, FairVote will use this data to display a forecasting tool to project final rounds of ranked choice voting in the US Senate race and in the presidential vote in the second congressional district. Actual results may take a week, given Maine’s current practices.

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FairVote is a nonpartisan champion of electoral reforms that give voters greater choice, a stronger voice, and a representative democracy that works for all Americans.

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