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Detroit Regional Chamber Releases Findings from New Statewide Poll of Michigan Voters

DETROIT, MICH. (May 20, 2020) – Today, the Detroit Regional Chamber released the findings from a new statewide poll of registered voters in Michigan that provides insight and data on how Michiganders have reacted to the state’s dual public health and economic crises. The poll’s findings demonstrate both key consistencies and mood shifts compared to the Chamber’s previous poll conducted April 15 through 16, 2020.

“As the State’s ‘Stay at Home’ Executive Order slowly begins to lift, and with evidence of growing frustration with these orders from some quarters, the Chamber wanted to provide employers of all types and sizes a clearer picture of employees’ comfort returning to work and their view of the order,” said Sandy K. Baruah, President of CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber.

The statewide general population poll was commissioned by the Detroit Regional Chamber and conducted by the Chamber’s polling partner, Glengariff Group Inc., of 600 likely Michigan voters between May 12 through 16, 2020.

The following are some key themes from the polling results:


Michiganders Overwhelmingly View COVID-19 as a Public Health Threat

  • 86.3% say COVID-19 is a threat to public health, compared to 9.8% who disagree. 
  • 58.8% believe the threat of COVID-19 has been balanced or downplayed, compared to 32.2% who believe the threat has been exaggerated. 
  • 55.5% are more concerned about their health, while 21.7% are more concerned about their financial situation. 

Voters Remain Supportive of the Governor’s Handling of the Crisis and Gradual Re-Opening

  • 63.7% approve of Gov. Whitmer’s handling of the pandemic, including 44.7% who strongly approve. 32.8% disapprove of the governor’s handling.  
  • The governor’s approval level is an increase from the 57% of the Chamber’s April poll. 
  • 71.7% support reopening our economy gradually in order to avoid a second wave. 
  • 25.7% state that the economic damage is worse than the health damage and the economic restart needs to occur quickly. 
  • 58.5% agreed that the state is opening up about right, with 7% reporting it is opening too fast, and 32.3% it is opening too slowly. 
  • 66.8% believe Michigan’s response to the crisis made sense and 29.2% disagree. 

While Michiganders Understand the Public Health Challenge, the Economic Impact is Significant

  • 24% characterized the impact on their household finances as “catastrophic” or “major”.  
    • This is down compared to the April finding of 47%. 
  • 16% of voters reported being worried about putting food on their table.  
    • This is down compared to the April finding of 26%. 
  • 23% of workers still working, but at reduced hours, worry about putting food on the table. 
  • 50.9% of those working for companies with 1-10 employees and 43.8% of those working for companies with 11-25 employees have been either laid off or had their hours sharply reduced.  
  • The hardest financial implications appear to be for employees of small businesses with less than 10 employees – 34.3% of those individuals said the results had been catastrophic or major. 

A Majority of Workers are Ready to Return to the Workplace 

  • 66.1% of workers feel safe going back to work, and 32.7% of workers do not yet feel safe returning to the workplace.
  • The Chamber’s April poll indicated that 61% of respondents felt safe or somewhat safe returning to the workplace. 
  • A majority, or plurality, of workers of businesses of all sizes, are comfortable going back to work.  
  • Small business employees feel the most comfortable returning to their place of employment, with 83.3% for businesses employing 11 to 25 persons.   
  • Metro Detroit workers feel safe returning to work by a narrower margin, 58.3% compared to the 66.1% statewide average.  

Partisan Difference are Striking

  • While Gov. Whitmer’s approval for handling the crisis is strong at 63.7%, only 19.3% of Republicans approve. 
  • 70.4% of voters who identify as Strong Republican believe the COVID-19 threat has been exaggerated, compared to 32.2% of all voters. 
  • 60.7% of Strong Republican voters believe the economic damage is worse than the illness, compared to 21.7% of all voters.   
  • Republican voters, contrary to all voters, believe Michigan is opening up too slowly; with 77% of those who identify as Strong Republican voters agreeing it is opening too slow. A majority, 58.5%, said Michigan is opening about right. 
  • Republicans believe the recent protests at the State Capitol in Lansing sent the right message, especially Republican men in age categories of 40 to 49 and 50 to 64; with over 60% agreeing that the protesters sent the right message.  A strong majority, 69%, of all voters said the protests sent the wrong message.     

“Differences in Michigan’s handling of COVID-19 are not based on region, age, type of work, or education levels. They are fundamentally based in partisan affiliation. Strong Republican voters — particularly strong Republican male voters — believe COVID-19 is overplayed as a threat, believe Lansing protests send the right message, and are the least likely to wear masks when going out. They fundamentally differ in their approach from Democratic voters, Independent voters, and even Leaning Republican voters,” said Richard Czuba, the founder of Glengariff Group Inc.

The Chamber conducted a similar statewide poll in April with the Glengariff Group to get an early view into how the pandemic was impacting Michigan households. This poll from May contains some of the same questions and additional questions about the prospect of reopening Michigan businesses of all sizes.

  • 42.8% of Michigan voters approve of President Trump’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, compared to 50.4% who disapprove. In April, respondents disapproved by a margin of 44%-50%.  
  • By a margin of 77.0%-19.6%, workers trust their workplace to keep them safe. This is an increase from 60% in April.    
  • By a margin of 63.7%-32.8%, Michigan voters approve of Gov. Whitmer’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. In April, respondents approved by a margin of 57%-37%. 
  • In April, 47% of residents said the financial effect had been catastrophic or major. In May, that number dropped to 24%.  

View the full findings from the May Michigan Voter Poll, the April public opinion poll, and the Chamber’s regional executive survey.

Additional Findings from May Voter Poll:


Michigan Voters Support Gradual Reopening

Respondents were read two different statements and asked which one more closely reflected their current position on COVID-19.

  • 71.7% – “So that we do not experience a second wave of the illness, we need to reopen our economy gradually.” 
  • 25.7% – “The economic damage is worse than the health damage. We need to quickly get our economy up and running again.” 

Michigan Voters: Health Threat Much Greater Risk Than Economic Threat

By a margin of 86.3%-9.8%, Michigan voters say COVID-19 is a threat to public health.

Respondents were asked if the COVID-19 threat was exaggerated, downplayed, or balanced?

  • 38% believe the threat has been balanced. 
  • 32.2% believe the threat has been exaggerated. 
  • 20.8% believe the threat has been downplayed. 

There were important statistical differences among three demographic groupings: Party identification, race, and region.

  • Only one demographic group falls below 80% who say that it is a threat, 67.4% of Strong Republican voters believe it is a public health threat.  
  • By a margin of only 57.6%-36.4%, Strong Republican men see COVID-19 as a public health threat.  
  • Strong Republican women see COVID-19 as a public health threat by a margin of 76.8%-13%.  
  • 38.1% of Strong Republican men in the Upper Peninsula and Northern Michigan, 44.4% of Strong Republican men in Southwest Michigan, 50% of Strong Republican men in East Central Michigan (Tri-Cities), and 33.3% of Strong Republican men in border counties of the Detroit Metro region believe COVID-19 is not a public health threat. 

Michigan Voters: Health Threat Much Greater Risk Than Economic Threat

Respondents were asked if they were more worried about their health or their financial situation.

  • 55.5% are more concerned about their health. 
  • 21.7% are more worried about their financial situation. 
  • 19.2% of respondents said they are equally worried about both. 

Only one demographic group saw a difference in this pattern: Strong Republican voters.

  • 43.7% of Strong Republicans are more concerned about their financial situation. 
  • 36.3% of Strong Republicans are more concerned about their health. 
  • 14.1% of Strong Republicans are equally concerned about both. 

Michigan Voters: We Need to Learn to Live With COVID-19

Respondents were read three different positions and asked which most closely reflected their current position.

  • 58.3% – “For now, we will need to learn to live with COVID-19. So, we need to start getting the economy going again, but with protections in place to try and keep as many people safe as possible.” 
  • 26% – “The top priority must be health care and saving lives until a vaccine is developed even if it means the economy suffers.”  
  • 13.3% – “We just need to re-start the economy and get people back to work. We can’t let the economic damage be worse than the illness.” 

One key difference is that Strong Democratic voters appear equally split between learning to live as safely as possible with COVID-19 and waiting for a vaccine.

50% of Strong Democratic voters say we must learn to live as safely as possible with COVID-19 compared to 45.1% who say we should wait for a vaccine. This difference is driven by 59.8% of African American voters that say we should wait for a vaccine compared to 35.4% that say we should learn to live with COVID-19.


President Trump and the National Response Numbers Look the Same

Respondents were asked if they approve or disapprove of President Trump’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • 42.8% approve of his handling of the pandemic, including 27% who strongly approve. 
  • 50.4% disapprove of his handling of the pandemic, including 43.2% strongly disapprove. 

Demographics show:

  • 90.2% of Democratic voters disapprove of the President’s performance – with 81.5% strongly disapproving. 
  • 87.4% of Republican voters approve of the President’s performance – with 68.9% strongly approving (18.5% somewhat approve). 
  • Independent voters disapprove of his performance by a margin of 39.1%-46.8%. Only 17.9% of Independent voters strongly approve of his performance while 39.1% of Independent voters strongly disapprove of his performance. 

Respondents were asked if the nation is opening up too fast, too slowly, or about right.

  • 40% believe the nation is opening too fast. 
  • 31.8% believe the nation is opening about right. 
  • 20.3% believe the nation is opening too slowly. 

Michigan Voters Strongly Behind Whitmer Approach

Respondents were asked if they approve or disapprove of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • 63.7% approve of her handling of the pandemic, including 44.7% who strongly approve. 
  • 32.8% disapprove of her handling of the pandemic, including 25.3% who strongly disapprove. 

Demographics show:

  • 96.2% of Democratic voters approve of the governor’s performance – with 81% strongly approving. 
  • 78.5% of Republican voters disapprove of the governor’s performance  with 64.4% strongly disapproving 
  • Independent voters strongly approve of the governor’s performance by a margin of 65.3%-27.5%. 39.7% strongly approve and 22.4% strongly disapprove. 

Respondents were asked if the state is opening up too fast, too slowly, or about right.

  • 58.5% believe Michigan is opening about right. 
  • 32.3% believe Michigan is opening too slowly. 
  • 7% believe Michigan is opening too fast.    

Demographics show:

  • 50% of voters in the Upper Peninsula and Northern Michigan believe Michigan is opening about right, while 39.7% say Michigan is opening too slowly.  
  • Only Republican voters believe Michigan is opening too slowly.  
  • 51.2% of out-state voters believe Michigan is opening about right, while 40.3% say the state is opening too slowly.  
  • 65.5% of metro voters believe Michigan is opening about right while 24.8% say the state is opening too slowly.    

Michigan voters were asked if Michigan’s response has or has not been clear and easy to understand.

  • 62.3% said it was clear and easy to understand.
  • 34.7% said Michigan’s response was not clear and easy to understand.    

Demographics show:

  • Only Republican voters said Michigan’s response was not clear and easy to understand. 
  • By a narrow margin of 47%-53%, voters in Macomb County believe Michigan’s response was not clear and easy.  
  • By a margin of 66.7%-30.8%, Independent voters said Michigan’s response was clear and easy to understand. 
  • In Northern Michigan, voters say Michigan’s response was clear and easy 54%-45%. 

By a margin of 65.8%-31.8%, Michigan voters strongly support opening some business by region as compared to treating all areas of the state the same. Every region of the state overwhelmingly supports opening some regions before others, except voters in Detroit. By a margin of 45%-53%, Detroit respondents say every region should be treated the same.


Michiganders Will Approach the Economic Future ‘Gradually,’ No Rush to Reengage

Voters were read thirteen different locations. Using a one to 10-point scale, they were asked if that location was to open next week, how comfortable would they be to go to that location. With 10 showing the most comfortable, and one being the least.

The chart below indicates that Michigan voters will take a ‘gradual’ approach to reengaging with the economy. They will prioritize smaller, essential interactions to larger settings with the singular exception of being ready to be part of small group gatherings again.

7.4 Grocery store
6.9 Your doctor’s office
6.6 Small group gatherings of 10
6.0 Hospital for a medical procedure
5.8 Smaller retail sore
5.3 Church and religious service
4.5 Universities
4.4 K-12 schools
4.3 Sit-down restaurant
3.9 The mall
3.6 Movie theatre
3.2 Sporting event
3.0 Concert 

Demographics show:

  • Republican voters are substantially more prepared to interact in all of these settings as compared to Democratic and Independent voters.
  • African American voters by a wide margin will be the most reluctant to engage in any of these settings – more so than voters over the age of 65.

Financial and Food Emergencies Have Eased from April Survey

As with the Chamber’s April survey, voters were asked if the effect of COVID-19 on their household finances have been catastrophic, major, minor, or no effect at all. The chart below compares the April findings to the May findings.

Effect               April     May 

Catastrophic    12%     5% 

Major               35%     19% 

Minor               36%     46% 

No Effect         15%     28% 

Some comparisons show:

  • Among those furloughed or laidoff, 45.2% say the financial implications are catastrophic or major – this is a drop from 69% in April. 
  • 16% of Michigan residents continue to be worried about putting food on their table. This figure represents a drop from 26% in April.    
  • 24% of furloughed or laid-off workers continue to be worried about putting food on their table – a reduction from 54% in April.

Workers Largely Ready to Return to Work, Small Business Workers Most Comfortable

By a margin of 77%-19.6%, workers trust their workplace to keep them safe. This is an increase from 60% in April.

Respondents were asked would you feel safe or not safe going to work.

  • 66.1% of Michigan workers said they feel safe going back to work – 45.7% said they feel very safe while 20.4% feel somewhat safe.
  • 32.7% of Michigan workers do not feel safe going to back to work yet – with 16.1% feeling somewhat unsafe and 16.6% feeling very unsafe.
  • 1.3% did not know or did not answer.

The chart below looks at safe versus unsafe by the size of the workers’ business.

Number of Employees           Safe                Unsafe 

1-10                                         76.3%              21.9% 

11-25                                       83.3%              16.7% 

26-100                                     58.7%              41.3% 

101-500                                   63.3%              35.0% 

500+                                        50.0%              47.2% 

Demographics show:

  • Outstate workers feel safe by a margin of 78.7%-19.7%.   
  • Detroit Metro workers feel safe by a margin of 53.8%-45.2%.  
  • Men feel safe by a margin of 73.7%-23.7%.  
  • Women feel safe by a margin of 58.3%-41.7%.  
  • African American workers feel unsafe by a margin of 40.0%-57.8% 
  • White workers feel safe by a margin of 70.8%-28.2%. 

Workers Support Three Major Safety Precautions

Workers were read four different things their workplace might do to keep them safe at work.

For each, respondents were asked to rate on a one to 10 scale how safe that would make them feel. Three of the four rated in a range from 7.2 to 7.6.      

  • 7.6 Require that everyone maintains at least a six-foot distance from each other. 
  • 7.4 Require that everyone wears a mask during the workday. 
  • 7.2 Require that everyone has their temperature checked as they come into work. 

But when asked about requiring employees to get a vaccine once it is available, that measure only rated it a 5.9.

When asked in an open-ended question what one thing employers could do to make them more comfortable, seven different answers rose above 5%.

  • 11.5% require masks.
  • 10.5% follow CDC guidelines.
  • 9.2% maintain social distancing/ or allow work at home.
  • 9.2% conduct extreme cleaning and sanitizing.
  • 7.1% provide personal protection equipment.
  • 6.1% screen upon entering the facility.
  • 5.9% have open communication with workers.

Who Do Voters Trust On COVID-19?

Voters were given 10 different sources of information and asked to rate them on a one to 10 scale for how much they trusted each source to give them accurate information on COVID-19. Medical providers were, far and away, the most trusted sources of information.     

8.7 Your doctor
8.2  Medical professionals 
7.0 Dr. Anthony Fauci 
6.1 Gov. Gretchen Whitmer 
6.1 Your friends and family 
5.3  Your local newspaper or local tv news 
4.5 National news like NBC, CBS, and ABC 
4.4 President Trump 
4.3 Cable news like CNN, FOX, and MSNBC 
2.4 Posts on social media like Facebook

President Trump and Gov. Whitmer receive strongly different ratings based on party affiliation. While Independent voters rate Governor Whitmer at 6.1, they rate President Trump at only 4.2.


69% of Michigan Voters Say Protests Send the Wrong Message

Respondents were asked if recent protests occurring at the State Capitol sent the right message or the wrong message. By a margin of 22%-68.7%, Michigan voters believe the protests send the wrong message.

Demographics show:

  • There is no region of the state that believes the protests send the right message.  
  • The only voters who think the protests send the right message are Strong Republican voters at 51.1%-34.8%.  
  • By a margin of 57.6%-30.3%, Strong Republican men believe the protests send the right message.  
  • Republican women believe the protests send the right message by a margin of 44.9%-39.1%. 
  • Independent voters think the protests send the wrong message by a margin of 17.3%-69.9%.  

80% of Michiganders Self-Report Wearing Masks

Respondents were asked if they were masks when they go out in public.

  • 80.7% said they wear a mask when they go out.  
  • 11% said they do not wear a mask.  
  • 7.8% said they sometimes wear a mask.  

Demographics show:

  • 88.8% of women wear a mask compared to only 71.9% of men who wear a mask.  
  • While 72.5% of Republican women wear a mask, only 48.5% of Republican men wear a mask.    

By a margin of 74.5%-16.5%, Michigan voters believe businesses should be required to have their employees and customers wear face masks.

  • Strong Republican voters rate the lowest – 60.7% believe business should be required to have employees and customers in face masks.  
  • 96% of Strong Democratic voters believe face masks should be required. 
  • 80% of Independent voters believe face masks should be required.  
  • While 92% of voters over 65 support the mask requirement70% of voters ages 18 t29 support the mask requirement.

The 600 sample, live operator telephone survey was conducted on May 12 through 16, 2020, and has a margin of error of +/-4.0% with a 95% level of confidence.  60% of respondents were contacted via landline telephone.  40% of respondents were contacted via cell phone telephone.

View the full findings of the poll at: detroitchamber.com/MIvoterpolldata.

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