Sportsmen Leading in Bear Referendum Poll

Bradford Camps photoPatrick Murphy will deliver some great news tomorrow to the sportsmen of Maine. A survey of Maine voters conducted by Murphy’s company, Pan Atlantic SMS Group of Portland, found that 46.7 percent support a ban on hunting bears with bait and dogs and trapping bears, 48.1 percent oppose the ban, and 5.3 are undecided.

The yes vote was stronger in Maine’s First Congressional District, where 50.3 percent support the ban. In the Second Congressional District, only 43.1 percent support the ban.

This puts sportsmen far ahead of where they were in the 2004 bear referendum at this point in time.

Dr. Christian Potholm provided polling and strategic advice to the campaign defending bear hunting in 2004. His first poll was conducted in August of 2003, 15 months before the vote in November of 2004. In that first survey, 43 percent supported the ban on hunting bears with bait and dogs and trapping bears, while 30 percent opposed the ban. 23.6 percent had no opinion yet, and 3.5 said they didn’t plan to vote on the issue.

A second major poll conducted in early June of 2004 found 49 percent in support of the ban and 31 percent opposed. 16.8 percent didn’t have an opinion and 2.2 percent said they didn’t plan to vote on the issue.

Potholm provided tracking polls over the last two months of the campaign. By October 22, 2004, just weeks before the vote, he reported that opponents of the ban now led by a 50 percent to 44 percent margin.

On election day, 53 percent voted no and 47 percent voted yes.

I have the cross tabs for this question on Murphy’s survey, and will offer more analysis soon.

Lessons Learned

There are a couple of important lessons here.

First, just as sportsmen came from behind to win in 2004, the Humane Society of the United States has every opportunity to win their campaign in 2014. It is especially troublesome that they are doing well in the populous First Congressional District.

Second, sportsmen outspent HSUS in 2004, a major factor in our victory. This year, HSUS has already reported that it will spend at least $3 million. If sportsmen cannot come close to matching the HSUS campaign, they will be very unhappy on election day.


George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website,, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. Islandport Press published a book of George's favorite columns, "A Life Lived Outdoors" in 2014. In 2014, George also won a Maine Press Association award for writing the state's bet sports blog. In 2016, Down East Books published George's book, Maine Sporting Camps, and Islandport Press published George and his wife Linda's travel book, Take It From ME, about their favorite Maine inns and restaurants.