Colby Poll Shows Statistical Dead Heat in Maine’s U.S. Senate Race

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By Laura Meader
Contact: George Sopko ([email protected]) 207-859-4346
February 18, 2020

Impeachment Vote Resonates Negatively with Voters
Sanders Leads in Democratic Primary; Biden Fourth

In the aftermath of President Donald Trump’s impeachment acquittal, a new poll of registered Maine voters by Colby College revealed a statistical dead heat between four-term Republican incumbent United States Senator Susan Collins and the leading Democratic front-runner, Sara Gideon, the current speaker of the Maine House of Representatives.

Forty-two percent of poll respondents said they would vote for Collins, while 43 percent reported they would vote for Gideon, according to the poll, which reached 1,008 registered Maine voters from Feb. 10 to Feb. 13. The poll was developed and sponsored by Colby College and conducted through the national pollster SocialSphere.

Collins’s overall favorability rating came in at 42 percent, with 54 percent of respondents giving her an unfavorable rating. Among self-identified independents, a key voting bloc in Maine, 39 percent had a favorable view of the senator and 57 percent had an unfavorable view.

“There’s a long way to go, and things can change,” said Dan Shea, Colby College professor of government and the lead researcher on the poll, who noted Sen. Collins last earned re-election with 67 percent of the vote. “However, the results indicate this could be the kind of race Sen. Collins has not had to deal with before.”

Asked if Mainers should be proud or disappointed with Sen. Collins’s role during the impeachment process, 30 percent said they were proud, 37 percent were disappointed, and 31 percent said they had mixed feelings.

According to the Colby poll, 79 percent of respondents paid attention to the impeachment proceeding. The sample was split on the Senate’s decision to acquit the president: 48 percent said it was the right move, 49 percent said it was the wrong move.

While 46 percent of respondents said Collins’s vote would probably not change their opinion on her candidacy, 36 percent of respondents indicated her vote would lead them to vote against her. By comparison, 17 percent of poll respondents said her vote would lead them to vote for Collins.

According to Shea, the results indicate that Sen. Collins’s role in the president’s acquittal on impeachment charges resonated negatively with Maine voters. “Some Republicans were disappointed that Sen. Collins didn’t protect the president more, while a lot of Democrats and independents were upset that she didn’t vote to remove him from office,” he said. “The middle can be a lonely place these days.”

Trump support falls, but still leads in 2nd Congressional District

Colby’s poll shows support for President Trump in Maine has fallen. Thirty-nine percent of respondents gave Trump a favorable rating, compared to 60 percent who gave him an unfavorable rating.

Only 34 percent of respondents said they would vote to reelect Trump, with 37 percent indicating they would vote for whomever the Democratic candidate is, 15 percent noting it depended on who the Democrats select, and 15 percent remaining undecided.

In 2016 Donald Trump lost to Hillary Clinton by just three percentage points in Maine. However, the president did make history by winning Maine’s 2nd Congressional District in 2016 — marking the first time Maine split its electoral votes — and the poll suggests he may do so again.

Some 41 percent of respondents from the 2nd Congressional District said they would vote for the president, 31 percent said they would vote for whomever the Democratic candidate is, 14 percent said it depended on who won the Democratic nomination, and 14 were undecided.

The Colby poll also found that in the 2nd Congressional District incumbent Democrat U.S. Rep. Jared Golden still holds a 43- to 29-percent lead over a generic Republican candidate despite Golden’s stated support for the president. Twenty-eight percent were undecided.

Gideon and Sanders Far Ahead in Democratic Primary

Some 383 respondents said they intended to vote in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate. Gideon netted 60 percent of respondents, Betsy Sweet had 8 percent, and all the other candidates scored less than 3 percent. Thirty-one percent were undecided.

Of the 350 respondents who said they would likely vote in the presidential primary March 3, the results showed the following:

  • 25 percent said they would vote for U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont;
  • 16 percent indicated they would vote for Pete Buttigieg, former mayor of South Bend, Ind.;
  • 14 percent noted support for former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg;
  • Former Vice President Joe Biden scored 12 percent, and U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren of
    Massachusetts received 9 percent, with all others less than 5 percent.


Conducted between February 10 and 13, the Colby College survey reached 1,008 registered voters and has a margin of error of 3 percent. Roughly 30 percent of the respondents were reached on telephone landlines and cell phones, with the remaining 70 percent being contacted online. The sampling and contacts were made by SocialSphere, a public opinion research firm located in Boston. The head of the firm, John Della Volpe, is also the director of polling at Harvard’s Institute for Politics and at RealClearPolitics.

For a complete set of the poll’s findings, as well as key cross-tabulations and a detailed discussion of the methodology, please visit

This poll is the first of a series of polls that Colby College and SocialSphere plan to conduct between now and Election Day in November.