"There is a cautious optimism that things are getting better," says Pan-Atlantic President Patrick Murphy (right, holding a copy of the company's latest poll.) "The numbers recorded on Maine being in the right direction are the highest we've seen since the end of '07."
But Murphy says the optimists are still in minority: according to the poll, which surveyed 403 people throughout the state, about 47 percent of Mainers still think the state's headed in the wrong direction. Furthermore, more than 60 percent of those polled don't expect an economic recovery until after 2014.
All of which indicates that most of us are expecting another 19 months of economic stagnation before the next gubernatorial elections.
Despite the sluggish outlook, the poll suggests that Gov. Paul LePage is on track to win re-election in a 3-way race, against independent Eliot Cutler and a Democrat - either former Gov. John Baldacci, or 2nd District Congressman Mike Michaud.
Murphy admits this is a hypothetical scenario at the moment. "But it does seem to indicate that LePage has got that solid 35, 36 percent block, and then you've got Cutler as an independent and either of these two Democrats, not doing as well," Murphy says.
The only scenario that involves LePage being defeated, according to the poll, is if Cutler decided to run as a Democrat.
Maine Democratic Party leaders, meanwhile, say they have doubts about the SMS survey.
"We've been conducted polling now for a couple of months, and we've seen other public polls, and none of them match up with the SMS poll," says Democratic Party Chairman Ben Grant.
Grant says the latest internal Democratic poll - working on the assumption that Mike Michaud will decide to run for governor - indicates a statistical tie between Michaud and LePage, with Cutler in third place.
Grant says he's also disturbed by the fact that the SMS survey made no attempt to screen respondents as to whether they were likely to vote.
"We want to take a snapshop of the likely electorate, not of the people of Maine - you know, in a very academic sense, the people don't pick, the voters pick, you know what I mean?"
Patrick Murphy admits SMS didn't ask people if they intend to vote, but he says there's a good reason for it.
"You can ask that question, I guarantee that 90-something percent of people will say 'Yes I"m planning to vote.' I think as long as we had people who said that they were registered, we were happy enough, because this poll is a long way out from any elections," Murphy says.
Gun control was another issue addressed in the poll, which shows Maine residents overwhelmingly behind mandatory background checks for firearms purchases. Close to 90 percent said they support that proposal, while nearly that number also indicated they're in favor of making private gun sales subject to background checks.
Meanwhile, 57 percent said they favor a ban on assault-style weapons, while 63 percent think banning magazines with a capacity for 10 rounds or more is a good idea.
Jeff Weinstein is president of Maine Gun Owners Association, which has several hundred members. He says he's all for background checks. "It protects both the buyer and the seller, and it has proven to be quite beneficial and quite workable," he says.
Weinstein also gives the thumbs up to the idea of imposing background checks on all private gun sales. When it comes to the proposed ban on so-called "assault-style" weapons though, he says that question should not even have been on the poll.
"That effort is purely cosmetic," he says. "It's without any merit whatsoever. It's based on nonsensical fears of people who don't have a clue about guns."
That, he says, is because the phrase "assault-style weapon" refers only to the appearance of certain semi-automatic firearms.
As for the issue of magazine capacity, Weinstein says it's a moot point because there are already thousands of them in circulation, and because a competent weapons handler can change a magazine in less than a second.
View the entire Pan-Atlantic SMS poll.
Photo by Tom Porter.