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Four things to know about Michigan voters | Opinion

6/12/21

Detroit Free Press

Nancy Kaffer

If you’re the sort of supernerd who loves a good political poll, Richard Czuba’s got a doozy for you.

Released this week, the latest poll by Czuba’s Glengariff Group for the Detroit Regional Chamber is a grab bag of fascinating data points. I don’t have one big takeaway for you, I have four.

Election reform

Michiganders have extremely strong feelings about election reform. At least, the third of Michiganders who know it’s a thing do.

Election reform has consumed Lansing for the last eight months, but 71% of the Michiganders Czuba polled were blissfully unaware of it.

Lansing Republicans are walking a very fine line here. While pooh-pooing any suggestion the elections that secured their own seats were compromised, they’ve bought wholesale into the notion that our elections aren’t secure, that it’s too easy to cheat, and that something must be done, even after dozens of hours of hearings last winter revealed no fraud. So they’ve and proposed legislation that would have the net effect of restricting voting access. Democrats and clerks from both parties agree that changes are required, but say what’s needed is help — more resources, more money, more time for clerks to count absentee ballots.

Around 64% of respondents believe our elections are safe. Of those who were aware of election reform, the news is largely bad for Republicans: Clear majorities of those polled support early voting, mass mailing of absentee ballot applications, pre-registration for 17-year-olds and early absentee vote counting. They oppose requiring an arbitrary end-time for a vote count and prohibiting clerks from mailing postage-paid absentee ballots.

But there’s very bad news for Democrats: 79.7% of respondents believe that voters should be required to present state-issued identification at the polls.

This has become a pivot point of the election reform debate. Republicans insist that requiring voters to show photo ID is the cure for rampant election fraud. Democrats counter that voter ID laws amount to voter suppression, intentionally targeting Black and brown communities.

The reality is, about 10,000 people voted without ID in the last election cycle, instead signing affidavits swearing they were the persons they claimed to be.

We display identification for much more mundane tasks than voting, so it shouldn’t be surprising that a lot of Michiganders think it’s reasonable for voters to present ID at the polls.

Democrats have invested so heavily in preserving the status quo that I’m hard-pressed to see how they could back away from this issue. But if you take this one off the table, “the others collapse,” Czuba said. “They won’t sell with voters on their own.”

Unemployment

How to get Michiganders back to work is another heated topic. The public conversation is split roughly between the right-leaning viewpoint that enhanced unemployment benefits have disincentivized work, and the left-leaning position that employers need to make jobs more attractive to entice workers back.

Missing from this conversation, Czuba said, is the 4.2% of the population his poll indicates has left the workforce to retire, many on disability.

“When we look at who they are, they are disproportionately over the age of 50. A lot of people want to say it’s the $300 unemployment benefit, and there’s a little bit of that, but COVID pushed a major reshuffling of the Michigan work force, and pushed a lot of people over the edge,” he said.

“Look at workers under 30 — 30% of them shifted jobs. We’re missing the point that COVID was not just a disruption to the workforce, it was a disruption to people’s lives.”

Of respondents who said they were seeking work, 22.9% cited safety as a barrier, the top answer.

“If you’re white, there’s a 34% chance you know someone who has died of COVID, Czuba said. By contrast, “two-thirds of Black Michiganders know someone who died. That tends to rattle you,”

Whitmer

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s approval rating fell from 57.8% in February to 50% in Czuba’s most recent poll.

But this number has to be considered in context, he said.

“During the pandemic, there was a rally around the flag moment, and let’s face it, governors took control of the crisis,” he said. “It was really strange to see a Michigan governor at 58% to 59% approval.”

The highest approval rating his firm polled for former Gov. Rick Snyder in eight-year tenure, Czuba notes, was 50%.

In other words, Czuba said, “She [Whitmer] has dropped, but she’s at Rick Snyder’s high point.”

Czuba’s poll suggests Michigan’s gubernatorial race is going to be close in 2022, but that’s not news.

“The political dynamics have not changed from 2018 or 2020. The state is hyperpartisan again, and the motivation to vote is actually a little higher than it was in January of 2018,” Czuba said. Fears of low Democratic turnout may be unfounded, he said: “Right now, Democrats are rock-solid in motivation.”

Then there’s Donald Trump.

“What I see in this environment is that nobody has moved past Trump. That’s still driving the hyper-partisanship, and it’s still driving motivation in the upcoming election,” Czuba said. “We’re seeing the same dynamics we’ve seen in ’18 and ’20. It’s going to be close, but Republicans have to find a way over the Trump hurdle that plays to independents.”

The vaccine

Twenty percent of those surveyed said they have no intention of getting the COVID-19 vaccine. That number has dropped since December, but has been consistent since February.

“They are disproportionately voters under 50 who lean Republican and tend to be outstate,” Czuba said. “It really didn’t make a difference whether they had been exposed themselves.”

About 20% of the vaccine skeptics said they did not believe there had been sufficient testing and research, 18% said they don’t trust the vaccine, 15% said they were wary of side effects, 10% said they were healthy, and 8% said they don’t believe in vaccines.

And almost half said no incentive would change their minds.

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