Mainers believe housing and cost of living are the most important issues facing the state, with jobs and homelessness tying for third place, according to the findings of a poll released Monday by the University of New Hampshire’s Survey Center.

One out of every four of the 555 Mainers who completed the online Pine Tree State Poll this month thought housing was the most important problem facing Maine today. One out of every five respondents identified the cost of living as Maine’s biggest problem.

Jobs and homelessness each came in as the top-ranked problem for one out of 10 people polled.

“Pocketbook issues almost always are more important in people’s minds than hot-button issues, like abortion, gun control, etcetera,” said Andy Smith, director of the UNH Survey Center. “Economic issues affect their lives every day while the other issues may never, or only tangentially, impact them.”

Most Americans only allow non-economic issues to bubble up to the top of their list of challenges if the economy is going really well or there is a major threat to their rights or their safety, such as a war breaking out or in the wake of a terrorist attack, Smith said.

UNH has seen similar results in recent polls in Vermont and New Hampshire, he said.


The affordable housing crisis is a national problem affecting Mainers from all walks of life, in all corners of the state. Would-be buyers and renters are competing for a limited supply of housing. Mainers who have homes are making difficult decisions about how to pay for them.

Rent is unaffordable for nearly half of all Maine tenants, according to data from Harvard University.

Evictions were up 22% last year, according to MaineHousing’s 2023 outlook report. Most of the increase, the agency said, can be attributed to “no-cause” evictions used by developers to remove tenants from units to renovate them.

Pocketbook issues like cost of living were the most important issues to Maine voters in the closing weeks of the 2022 election season, even though hot-button issues like abortion dominated headlines and party platforms, according to a Pan Atlantic Research poll released last October.

Homelessness in Maine is increasing and has grown far more visible, with large tent encampments popping up in parks and along highways. The state’s annual Point in Time Survey, conducted in January, found 4,258 homeless people in Maine, up from 1,297 in 2020.

Portland now provides shelter to about 850 people each night. Its new homeless services center has been full since it opened in March and many people are living outside, scattered around the city, in at least 262 tents, according to its city’s unhoused community dashboard.


On Friday, UNH released a poll that indicated most Maine Republicans think former President Donald Trump is innocent and could wind up supporting him as the party’s 2024 nominee even though he is facing four criminal indictments and the possibility of prison time.

Conducted in advance of this fall’s referendum questions, the online Pine Tree State Poll UNH released Monday found that 54% of those polled approve of Gov. Janet Mills’ job performance. She has 95% approval from Democrats and 53% from independents.

Only 9% of Republicans think Mills, a two-term Democratic governor, is doing a good job.

Mills found support at both ends of the age spectrum, with 74% of 18- to 34-year-olds and 58% of those 65 and older approving of her performance. Those in between were more likely to disapprove. Her approval rating among women was at 68%, but only 38% among men.

Her net approval rating – the percentage who approve minus the percentage who disapprove – was 11, according to the poll. That is a slight drop from her 13 net approval rating in June, and a significant decline from her 24 net approval rating in April.



And those eight referendum questions? The poll suggests Mainers don’t care much about the four citizen initiatives and four proposed amendments to the state constitution, yet three-quarters of those surveyed said they plan to cast a November ballot.

“The biggest takeaway I have is how woefully uninformed most voters are about referenda that can potentially have a huge impact on their lives,” Smith said. “That said, it is summer, so people have other things to worry about, and they will undoubtedly become more informed as the election nears.”

About three-quarters of those polled know at least something about Question 3, which would create a customer-owned nonprofit utility, and 42% know something about Question 4, which would give vehicle owners and independent garages access to a vehicle’s onboard diagnostic system.

But they know very little about Question 1, which seeks voter approval for the public borrowing that a customer-owned nonprofit utility would need to do, or Question 2, which would ban referendum electioneering by foreign-controlled entities.

They know little about proposed constitutional amendments to give the state more time to review referendum petition signatures, print the state’s treaty obligations in the Maine Constitution, allow out-of-state referendum petition circulators, and let people under guardianship for mental illness vote.

Respondents are members of the Pine Tree State Panel, a group of 2,750 Maine residents randomly selected by UNH to participate in online surveys. Data is weighted by respondent sex, age, education and geographic region to reflect Maine demographics as captured by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The poll’s margin of error is plus or minus 4.2 percentage points.

Related Headlines

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.