May 27, 2014 at 11:05 pm

News poll: Snyder and Peters lead rivals

Gov. Rick Snyder holds a nearly 10 percentage point lead over Democratic challenger Mark Schauer heading into the summer campaign season, while Democrat Gary Peters has a slim lead over his Republican opponent Terri Lynn Land, a new Detroit News/WDIV-TV poll shows.

Peters’ advantage over Land is 4.3 percentage points — just outside of the margin of error for the statewide survey of 600 likely voters. While Peters leads 39.6 percent to Land’s 35.3 percent, 23 percent of likely voters remain undecided, according to the poll, which was conducted May 20-22.

Their contest to succeed retiring Democratic U.S. Sen. Carl Levin is drawing increasing national attention.

In the governor’s race, Snyder leads Schauer 45 percent to 35.2 percent, with about 18 percent of voters undecided.

With Election Day just over five months away, Schauer is still struggling to get attention from voters, with 57.8 percent of respondents being able to identify him, pollster Richard Czuba said.

Within his own Democratic base, more than one-third of voters from union households “don’t know who Mark Schauer is,” Czuba said, while 41 percent of Detroit voters have not heard of him and one-quarter of Democratic voters said they would vote for Snyder if the election were held today.

“That’s a big problem for a candidate five months out and your base doesn’t know who you are yet,” said Czuba, president of the Glengariff Group.

About 28 percent of voters said they’ve heard of Schauer, a former congressman and state legislator from Battle Creek, but have no impression of him, Czuba said.

Schauer spokesman Zack Pohl said the incumbent governor should be worried he’s still unable to crack the 50 percent mark against Schauer in any publicly available survey of the electorate.

“For a Republican pollster to have a universally known Republican governor stuck below 50 percent just shows that he’s in serious trouble,” Pohl said of Snyder. “That’s the danger sign for any incumbent to be stuck below 50 percent.”

Czuba worked in former Republican Gov. John Engler’s administration.

Among those who maintain they are “definitely voting” in November, the poll shows Snyder’s lead expands to a 13.6-percentage-point margin over Schauer.

Pam Carney, 43, of Farmington, said Snyder “seems honest and genuine” and she approves of the job he’s doing. “He doesn’t really seem like a typical politician,” said Carney, who participated in the poll. “I don’t know anything about the other guy.”

Contrasting views of Snyder

Snyder spokeswoman Emily Benavides said his 54 percent approval rating in The News’ survey reflects the electorate’s mood about a rebounding economy and Snyder’s “elimination of the budget deficit and an increased investment in education.”

“Michigan’s voters know the difference between results and rhetoric,” Benavides said.

Arlene Montgomery, 80, a retired state worker who lives in Cedar in Leelanau County, opposes a second term for Snyder because he made Michigan a right-to-work state and signed other laws hindering unions, teachers and other public employees.

“They try to push laws that are advantageous to business and the wealthy,” said Montgomery, who participated in the poll. “They want to give the wealthy tax breaks and they are against the rest of us.”

The Senate candidates will be together Wednesday morning at a forum that kicks off the Detroit Regional Chamber’s annual policy conference on Mackinac Island. Schauer is not attending the Mackinac Policy Conference this year, but will be on the island Wednesday holding private meetings, Pohl said.

Women's issues help Peters

Peters, a congressman from Bloomfield Township, enjoys his strongest lead over Land among female votes, 40.1 percent to 32 percent. Democrats have attacked Land on abortion rights, access to contraception and equal pay for women.

Land, a former Secretary of State, attempted to fight back in a paid TV ad questioning the Democratic talking point that she is “waging a war on women.” In an interview Friday, Land said she “would never vote for a law that would deny” access to contraception.

“Given all of the emphasis that has been placed in the ads on women and female issues, it certainly seems that it has helped Gary Peters move out front, at least temporarily, among women,” Czuba said. “But neither of these candidates at this point has a clear advantage.”

Lynda Schrecengost, 35, of Detroit, said she disagrees with Land’s position against abortion, even in cases of rape and incest.

“Just because she’s a woman, it doesn’t change what she would likely do legislatively.”

About 25 percent of female voters said they were undecided on who should succeed Levin.

“Terri Lynn Land is going to have to find a way to galvanize female voters again towards her,” Czuba said.

Don Douglas, 79, of Harrison, said he doesn’t know much about Peters, but plans to vote for Land.

Douglas, who participated in the poll, said he’s irked by a Democrat-funded Senate Majority Political Action Committee television ad that accuses land Land of wanting to hinder women’s health.

“If Gary Peters has some backbone, he’ll tell whoever is putting out that phony commercial to knock it off.”

GOP leads in ad spending

Ad spending in Michigan has already topped $11 million for the Senate race. About $7 million has been spent in favor of the GOP, including about $5 million by the conservative group Americans for Prosperity, attacking Peters for his support of the Affordable Care Act. About $4.2 million has been spent for Democrats, according to a Democratic source who tracks media buys.

Billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer has signaled he will rush to Peters’ aid to match the millions being spent by Americans for Prosperity, a group funded by billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch, whose business interests lie in petroleum, energy and chemicals.

Peters’ spokeswoman Haley Morris said despite the ad assists, Land still isn’t connecting with voters, while Peters has a track record as an independent voice for Michigan’s middle class and small businesses.

“Out-of-state billionaire special interests have spent more on false attacks to help Terri Lynn Land buy this U.S. Senate seat than anywhere in the country, but the more Michiganders learn about their anti-middle class agenda, the more they don’t trust Land,” Morris said.

Land’s spokeswoman Heather Swift countered that Peters’ will now have to explain his ties “to the radical billionaire, Tom Steyer, as well as his support of bad, job-killing policies including Obamacare and cap-and-trade.”

Snyder (Dale G. Young)
Peters (Elizabeth Conley / The Detroit News)