Maine GayNet - Gay rights law backed by poll

Bangor, Maine

Thursday, August 14, 1997

Gay rights law backed by poll

by the Associated Press

Associated Press -- AUGUSTA - A majority of Mainers say they would vote to keep the state's gay rights law on the books, and a little over half will support passage of the forest-cutting ''compact'' this fall.

Results of the survey released Wednesday by Strategic Marketing Services of Portland also show strong confidence in the economy, with 69 percent declaring themselves optimistic or very optimistic.

Strategic Marketing surveyed 450 registered Maine voters who are likely to go to the polls in November. They were asked a series of wide-ranging public policy questions in telephone interviews between July 29 and Aug. 4.

Fifty-eight percent said they would not vote to repeal Maine's gay rights law; 33 percent would vote to repeal it; and 9 percent were undecided.

Lawmakers approved the nondiscrimination law earlier this year, but opponents launched a petition drive to put the question before voters. It is still unclear whether the question will appear on this November's ballot.

A leader of the repeal forces, Michael Heath of the Christian Civic League of Maine, said he was disappointed by the poll figures, but not surpri sed, and said he does not believe the edge is insurmountable.

Heath, executive director of the conservative group, said he has long believed ''that this was going to be an uphill struggle.''

On other issues, 55 percent said they will vote this November for industry-backed restrictions on forest clear-cutting, 25 percent will vote against them and 20 percent are undecided.

The ''compact,'' which is also backed by some environmental groups, comes back to voters for an up-or-down vote after failing to win a majority in a 1996 referendum. The proposed law would limit forest clear-cuts to 75 acres, rather than the 250 acres now allowed.

On an issue decided by the Legislature this spring, 51 percent of those responding to the survey support a $60 milli on package of tax breaks for Bath Iron Works, while 30 percent oppose them and 19 percent are undecided.

Opponents of the tax break law are trying to gather enough signatures to force a public vote on the matter.

Sixty-one percent of those polled by Strategic Marketing said they will vote this fall to widen the Maine Turnpike, 30 percent are opposed and 8 percent are undecided.

Other questions showed that:

* 59 percent of Mainers favor legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes, 13 percent favor legalization for recreational purposes.

* 59 percent believe the president of the United States should not be protected from civil lawsuits regarding actions unrelated to his official duti es, while 37 percent think he should be protected while in office.

* 82 percent do not agree marital infidelity should disqualify a person from military leadership positions, while 16 percent think it should and 2 percent are unsure.

* 65 percent favor a smoking ban in all Maine restaurants, 33 percent are opposed, and 3 percent are unsure.

* 89 percent favor a voluntary rating system showing when TV shows contain violence, sex, suggestive dialogue or vulgar language. When asked if they favor mandatory ratings, 68 percent said yes.

The omnibus poll, which has a 4.6 percent margin of error, included some questions to gather information for clients of the polling firm. Strategic Marketing did not release results of questions asked on behalf of the company's clients, said spokeswoman Victoria Kuhn Walker.

Strategic Marketing is a division of Pan Atlantic Consultants. Victoria Murphy, a principal in Pan Atlantic and former chairwoman of the Maine Democratic Party, was not involved in the survey, said Walker.

''It was a completely nonpartisan survey,'' Walker said.

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