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Three out of five Mainers would vote to uphold the state's new gay rights law in a November referendum that seeks to overturn it, according to a statewide survey released Thursday. The Strategic Marketing Services poll found that 61% of those surveyed would vote to uphold the law or are leaning toward keeping it. About 28% said they would vote to reject the law or are leaning that way, with 11% undecided.
The survey is a snapshot of likely voters' opinions and doesn't purport to predict the election's outcome, said Patrick Murphy, president of Strategic Marketing Services. The results are likely to change depending on the success of each side's arguments, media coverage, voter scrutiny, and other factors. "This election will come down to which of the campaigns is most successful at getting out its core supporters," he said.
The quarterly poll on a variety of issues, which has a margin of error of plus or minus five percentage points, was based on telephone interviews with 400 randomly selected adults from July 23 to July 30. The gay rights issue was the only survey question pertaining to November's election. A conservative alliance led by the Christian Civic League of Maine ran a successful petition drive to get a question on the ballot asking voters if they want to reject gay rights legislation that was signed into law in March. The law expands the Maine Human Rights Act to make discrimination based on sexual orientation illegal in employment, housing, credit, public accommodations, and education.
Tim Russell, spokesman for the Christian Civic League, said surveys are often unreliable. Polls leading up to a 2000 referendum were wrong in suggesting that voters would ratify the legislature's approval of a gay rights bill, he said. "We feel that once Maine citizens understand this is really about same-sex marriage, the numbers will change drastically," he said.
Jesse Connolly, campaign manager for Maine Won't Discriminate, said the survey is all well and good but that organizing a statewide campaign to keep the law in place is more important than poll numbers. Maine Won't Discriminate says the issue is about civil rights protections, not same-sex marriage. "Maine Won't Discriminate's only concern is the poll that takes place on Election Day," Connolly said. (AP)