Crain’s Detroit Business
Dec. 15, 2022
Michigan voters said the state as a whole is on the right track for the first time in nearly two years but believe the economy is on the wrong track, primarily due to high inflation, according to a new statewide poll.
Respondents listed gun-control bills as a top priority for the next Legislature, with a repeal of the taxation of retirement income ranking second in the Detroit Regional Chamber’s poll of 600 registered voters. The survey was conducted by The Glengariff Group Inc. between Nov. 28 and Dec. 1.
Half of those polled were neutral or undecided on whether they support or oppose overturning the state’s “right-to-work” laws, which bar labor contracts from requiring workers to pay dues or fees to unions representing them.
Some of the findings:
- 48 percent said Michigan is on the right track, a 16 percentage-point jump from May; 43 percent said it is on the wrong track, a 7-point drop. The last time the right track/wrong track figures were net positive was February 2021.
- 41 percent is the economy is on the right track vs. 49 percent who said it is on the wrong track.
- 66 percent reported altering their spending habits because of inflation, but 66 percent said they are doing better or the same economically than in the past despite inflation.
- 75 percent said the November election results were accurate, 75 percent approved of how the state handled the election and 74 percent said the election was fair. Some 13 percent said it was inaccurate and not fair, including 29 percent of strong Republican voters.
- 60 percent said they were optimistic about democracy; 29 percent were pessimistic.
- Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who won re-election, had a 56 percent approval rating, including 62 percent approval from independents. President Joe Biden’s was 40 percent, which has been consistent for a year, with 39 percent of independents approving. “There’s such a big difference here between those independent voters in Michigan,” said pollster Richard Czuba, president and founder of Glengariff. “That’s who matter the most in Michigan. So it’s going to be interesting to watch them moving forward.”
- 60 percent said they would consider a state’s policies on social issues such as abortion, LGBTQ rights and legalized marijuana before accepting a job there, including 67 percent of women and 52 percent of men. Nearly half of voters under age 40 said a state’s social policies would be very important in their decision.
The latter question was a first in the poll that the chamber typically commissions two or three times a year.
“Even with inflation, even with interest rates, when you talk to employers their biggest challenge is attracting and retaining talent. There’s a lot of issues now because of the Supreme Court, because of some of the things that have happened at a national level, these social issues are now becoming economic issues,” said Sandy Baruah, the chamber’s president and CEO. “It’s important for us to understand how the social issues interplay with the talent, retention and attraction issues.”
As part of the survey, Czuba included a question that asked voters to prioritize which measures should be tackled first when Democrats take legislative control in January. The list is based on seven agenda items Democrats have discussed since they won majorities in November, though Czuba said it is not exhaustive and could have included things like ethics reform:
- 24 percent said passing “red flag” and background check gun laws is a priority. The red flag bill would let family members or law enforcement officers ask a judge to authorize the seizure of guns from people who pose a significant risk to themselves or others.
- 18 percent said reversing the pension retirement tax.
- 15 percent said repealing a 1931 abortion ban, which voters effectively nixed with their approval of a constitutional amendment in November.
- 14 percent said investing more money in training workers to fill available jobs.
- 11 percent said going after new jobs projects like battery plants and chip makers.
- 4.5 percent said repealing the “right-to-work” laws.
- 4 percent said passing legislation to prohibit discrimination against LGBTQ people.
“Voters are gravitating towards these issues that have broad appeal across the spectrum,” Czuba said, noting 90 percent support for background checks. “Voters are telling the Legislature, ‘Focus on things that you can get support on across the aisle here because there’s a lot of low-hanging fruit here to do that with.’”
The controversial “right-to-work” laws were enacted by Republicans in 2013 with support from the business community over objections from unions and Democrats. Twenty-nine percent of voters said they back reversing the laws, while 21.5 percent were opposed, while 42 percent were undecided and 8 percent were neutral.
When asked where inflation has most impacted them, 43 percent of respondents said food, 22 percent said gas prices, 3 percent said electricity and heating, and 3 percent said mortgage and rent. Twenty-one percent said it has effected all their expenses.
The 66 percent who reported doing the same or better financially is a little lower than in previous polling, when the number was in the 70s.
“But it does continue to show this dichotomy that we see in consumer behavior,” Baruah said. “GDP is strong. The unemployment rate is still at record lows both nationally and certainly close to record lows here in Michigan. People are clearly still spending because we’re seeing that in the economy. But they’re still very cranky. … A vast majority of consumers and voters are saying, ‘Hey, we’re doing OK. But we’re still cranky about the economy.’ That’s been an ongoing issue that I’ve been kind of waiting to see if that starts to shift. But we haven’t seen that yet.”