Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Politics: Local and personal

TABOR (The Taxpayer's Bill of Rights for those of you in Maine, living under a rock), is this year's lightning-rod issue, up here in Maine-ayuh!

Here's a pertinent article that appeared in Tuesday's Portland Press Herald, by Elbert Aull. There are a myriad of accompanying comments if you read it online. I especially appreciated Howard's, of Biddeford.

TABOR losing support, poll finds

Portland Press Herald
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
by, Elbert Aull, Staff Writer

Support for the so-called Taxpayers Bill of Rights, a measure that will be voted on in November, has decreased since July, according to a poll of 400 Maine voters released Monday.
The Strategic Marketing Services poll taken this month showed that supporters of TABOR, the proposal's common name, still have an edge, but opponents have closed the gap since the firm's previous survey in July.

The poll also showed an increase in undecided voters, which observers said may be the result of conflicting information from interest groups on both sides of the debate.

"At this point in the game, confusion means the voters are paying attention," said political scientist Ronald Schmidt, an assistant professor at the University of Southern Maine.

Roughly one-fourth of those surveyed said they did not know how they would vote on TABOR, up from about one-fifth in July. The proposal would tie municipalities' spending increases to factors such as inflation and population changes, but includes a provision that would allow local governments and voters to override the limits.

"We're hearing from municipal governments that this is going to mean slashing budgets. We're hearing from Maine Heritage Policy Center that it's not going to," Schmidt said.

About 42 percent of voters surveyed said they would vote for, or are leaning toward voting for, the measure, down from around 54 percent in July. About 33 percent of voters said they would vote against, or are leaning toward voting against, the proposal, an increase of about 8 percent.

The quarterly poll of 400 registered voters was conducted from Sept. 16 to 21.

Jim Roberts, a retired political scientist who taught at USM, said many voters start to pay closer attention to issues after Labor Day, meaning a chunk of likely voters are still learning about the proposal.

Strategic Marketing Services did not disclose the results of its poll on the gubernatorial race.
Patrick Murphy, the firm's president, said he decided to keep the results private after a flap this summer about past polling work for Gov. John Baldacci.

Critics said his summer poll, which showed Baldacci ahead of all challengers, was tainted by his work for the governor, which the firm disclosed in the introduction to its July results.

"I got beaten up the last time," Murphy said, adding that he understood his critics' point of view. He said he is not connected to pro- or anti-TABOR groups.

The latest poll showed congressional incumbents ahead of their challengers, although 2nd District Democrat Michael Michaud had a double-digit drop in support since the July poll. Support for Michaud was running around 62 percent in the previous poll, compared to approximately 49 percent in the latest sample. Around 14 percent of voters said they support Republican L. Scott D'Amboise, Michaud's challenger, and 37 percent were undecided.

Darlene Curley, the Republican challenger to Democratic Rep. Tom Allen in the 1st District, showed an 11 percent increase in support over the July poll, at almost 22 percent. Approximately 52 percent of voters said they would or would likely vote for Allen, almost 3 percent said they support independent Dexter Kamilewicz and around 23 percent of voters said they were undecided.

The U.S. House polls have a larger margin of error - 7 percent, compared with 4.9 percent in statewide races - because they are based on smaller sample sizes. The firm contacted 206 likely voters in the 1st District and 194 in the 2nd, Murphy said.

Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe had a large lead over Democrat Jean Hay Bright and independent Bill Slavick. Approximately 73 percent of voters surveyed were supportive of Snowe, around 9 percent favored Hay Bright and 2 percent supported Slavick.

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