If you thought for a moment that former President Donald Trump’s recent string of indictments might have had a tempering effect on his support, think again. The chasm between Maine voters on his fitness for office is as gaping as it’s ever been.

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Former President Donald Trump steps off his plane as he arrives at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport on Thursday before surrendering on racketeering charges tied to his efforts to reverse his 2020 election loss. Alex Brandon/Associated Press

An update on the breadth and depth of this ideological ravine was made clear last Thursday in the shape of a poll by the University of New Hampshire.

Almost 60% of Republicans in Maine still believe that Trump won the 2020 election – a total falsehood.

Just 11% of Maine Republicans believe Trump committed a crime in attempting to overturn the results of the election. By contrast, 99% of Maine Democrats say they believe a crime was committed. The partisan divide now seems to us to defy analysis.

Harder to get to grips with than ever, it blows time-honored assumptions about politics and public opinion out of the water. Which is why we’re reluctant to put stock into the “wild card” power of the independent voter in Maine, who, thanks to new rules, can participate in either presidential primary next year.

Political analysts suggest that the belief held by the majority of unenrolled voters that Trump committed a crime (64% of those voters, who make up roughly 29% of the state’s total) could discourage support for Trump in the primaries.


Once upon a time – arguably not all that long ago – this kind of thinking might have been somewhat reliable. In June 2021, when the bill to open up the primaries was up for consideration in the Legislature, then-Rep. Will Tuell told reporters that the rule change could encourage bipartisanship. “I think the way politics is going, it kinda, probably might be time for this,” Tuell said.

Right. But it would be wishful and almost certainly wrong to assume that independent voters, here in Maine or elsewhere, are inveterate moderates capable of piercing through the extreme, entrenched partisanship that we have grown used to in recent years – and has hardened again in recent months.

The negligible effect of the criminal cases against Trump has also been borne out in national polling; days before the latest read on Maine was released, a CBS News/YouGov poll returned an even more alarming finding: that Trump voters say they trust him more than they trust their own families.

In an interview last week, James Melcher, a political science professor at the University of Maine, Farmington, warned against the pitfalls of “mischief voting” in semi-open primaries – that is, the practice of voting for the candidate most likely to lose the general election. In a time characterized by easy, high-profile lawlessness, concern about such mischief seems very quaint. If, in 2024, it’s the kind of thing that can get off the ground at all.

Much has been made of the move of younger voters, jaded with the two-party tug-of-war, to an “independent” designation. According to Gallup polling last year, the majority of both millennial and Gen Z voters profess themselves to be independents. National polling has suggested that all Americans are ready for something that is neither Republican nor Democratic in nature. True as this may be, we’ve already seen how challenging it will be to establish a credible alternative.

Andrew Yang’s effort, the Forward Party (with the slogan “Not left. Not right. Forward”) has struggled to gain traction, taking on a role that’s been almost strictly philosophical.


The amusingly named No Labels and its electioneering strategies have raised eyebrows all across the country, including here in Maine, where the group has yet to get on the ballot despite muscular (muscular to the point of dubious) attempts to do so. If we accept that its candidate cannot win, its mission to distort the race in Trump’s favor becomes clearer.

As independent as independent voters might wish they could be, they find themselves back in the ring.

Last week’s polling in Maine should sound a deafening alarm. The imperviousness of a candidate who was sure enough about it to say, seven years ago, that he could “stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and wouldn’t lose any voters” grows more fixed with more wrongdoing.

It’s not that this cannot be countered. But the independent voter cannot be looked upon as the white knight who will counter it. At this historically divided and oppositional time, it would be foolish to assume that no affiliation means no feeling.

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