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Michiganders Aren’t Polarized, They Want to Talk Kitchen Table Issues

By Brad Williams

Detroit made national headlines last week as the second round of Democratic presidential debates took place in the city’s own historic Fox Theatre. From immigration and climate change to foreign policy and health care, candidates outlined and defended their respective plans to lead the nation. Ahead of the debates, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer spoke to CNN’s Jake Tapper and to the attendees and shared some advice for the 20 presidential hopefuls as they prepared to address Michiganders and the country: “Stay focused on the fundamentals.”

She talked about the “kitchen table issues” like fixing roads and clean drinking water, which she championed during her campaign. Whitmer advised the candidates to attach bigger ideas and topics, like health care and climate change, to the daily lives of people.

What are the fundamentals important to Michiganders? The week before the debates, the Detroit Regional Chamber shared results from a statewide survey gauging what’s on the minds of Michigan voters. From immigration to trade, constituents are in consensus over most national issues. Results reflect a political center, not polarization. In other words, voters are not nearly as divided as Twitter or cable news would lead one to believe.

For example, a clear majority of Michigan voters believe immigrants are good for the state’s economy. 93.7% believe it’s important to receive a postsecondary education or certificate. An overwhelming majority of Michigan voters support fixing the Soo Locks. The only exception to a consensus on issues was health care. Michigan voters are split on health care, with 51.5% opposing the elimination of private insurance in favor of a “Medicare for All” plan.

During the debates, we saw candidates like Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders defend Medicare for All while former vice president Joe Biden and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg offered a more middle ground approach, retaining private insurance while still providing Medicare.

The candidates — not all of them, but a good chunk — spoke to a Michigan general election audience in a way that we’ve not seen in this campaign so far. Whoever wins the election next November almost certainly is going to need to win Michigan. We saw an awareness of that from the candidates.

Although the poll doesn’t reflect what’s on the minds of all Americans, results are comparable to what is happening throughout the Midwest. And the Midwest is going to determine how this election goes. There is a common sensibility among Midwesterners.

There may be some individuals on the fringes of issues in Michigan, both left and right, but most Michiganders live in the center. There isn’t a great divide. As the survey illustrates, Michigan voters are going to be attracted to candidates with concrete solutions to solve real problems.

Read results from the survey here.

Brad Williams is vice president of government relations for the Detroit Regional Chamber.