August 12, 2010 at 1:00 am

Poll: Backing for state constitutional convention looks iffy

Lansing -- Voters support a constitutional convention, according to a Detroit News-WDIV poll released Wednesday, but the backing may be short-lived.

The November ballot will ask voters if they want to rewrite the state's constitution. If approved, it will put in place a process in which every aspect of the governing document is open to debate and change.

Of 600 voters polled by Glengariff Group, 46 percent said they would vote yes, while 32 percent said they would vote no. Twenty-two percent were undecided.

The amount of support is smaller than would be expected if the measure were to pass, said Richard Czuba, president of Glengariff, which conducted the telephone survey Monday and Tuesday. The margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points.

"Michigan ballot initiatives have a long history that, if you don't start the race at about 60 percent (saying they will vote yes), you're going to lose because ballot proposals are so easy to defeat," Czuba said.

The constitution requires the question to be on the ballot every 16 years. Voters have to approve or reject proposed changes.

Advocates believe the constitution should be rewritten to decide whether Michigan should have a part-time Legislature or to consider other dramatic government reforms.

Bill Rustem, president and CEO of Lansing-based Public Sector Consultants, agreed with Czuba the poll indicates the measure won't pass.

"At the moment there are too many divisive issues, such as abortion and embryonic stem cell research, and the conversation would focus on the hot-button issues rather than the constitution."