Correction: This story and graphic have been adjusted to reflect that Target Insyght released its results to The News, but the newspaper did not sponsor the poll.
Detroit— Mayor Mike Duggan has a large lead over his biggest challenger, state Sen. Coleman Young, in a poll released to The Detroit News, even as the 400 likely primary voters say crime, blight and poverty have increased and job opportunities have stagnated.
Duggan led Young 55 percent to 23 percent among Detroiters interviewed Wednesday and Thursday who said they plan to vote in the Aug. 8 primary, according to the survey by Lansing-based Target Insyght.
Another 19 percent said they were undecided while 2 percent supported youth mentor Edward D. Dean and 1 percent backed Donna Marie Pitts.
Support for Duggan tracks with Detroit voters’ perceptions of whether the city government has increased money, staffing and time in their neighborhood, said Target Insyght pollster Ed Sarpolus. About 53 percent of respondents said the city had spent more money, time, manpower or other resources in their neighborhood.
Young drew much of his support from the 20 percent who said the city had invested about the same time and money in their area, and the 8 percent who said the city had spent less money and staffing in their neighborhood, Sarpolus said.
But the voters said they didn’t see much improvement on hot-button issues in the past four years. About 47 percent said poverty was up, while 16 percent said it was down. More than half said crime had increased, while 13 percent said it had declined.
Even in the midst of Michigan’s economic recovery, 24 percent of Detroit respondents said job opportunities had increased, and 30 percent said they had decreased. A plurality of 37 percent said the job situation had stayed the same.
Although Duggan has focused on replacing streetlights, cleaning up parks and demolishing abandoned homes, residents remain unhappy, Sarpolus said.
“He’s not making the people in Detroit’s personal lives better,” Sarpolus said. “They want to see less poverty and more jobs going to them.”
If Young wants to catch up to Duggan, he needs to tap into those issues that voters say are worsening — poverty, crime, education and blight, Sarpolus said. Young has not presented a clear plan for addressing neighborhoods, he said.
“Detroiters want to know what have you done, what’s your plan and how are you going to get it done,” Sarpolus said.
Duggan and Young are the most prominent among eight candidates on the August ballot, who include Articia Bomer, Curtis Christopher Greene, Angelo Brown and Danetta L. Simpson. Unless another candidate gains more support, Young and Duggan appear destined for a general election face-off.
The 58-year-old mayor has said his re-election campaign theme is “unity” and he has secured endorsements from labor unions, business groups and city clergy.
The 34-year-old Young, the only son of Detroit’s first black mayor, has argued that Duggan has neglected city neighborhoods and mishandled the city’s federally funded demolition program, which is under federal investigation.
In the poll, Duggan led Young in six of Detroit’s seven City Council districts.
Young narrowly beat Duggan, 44 percent to 43 percent, in District 3, which covers a northeast area that includes some of the city’s poorest ZIP codes.
The automated poll had a margin of error of plus-minus 5 percentage points.
Alexis Wiley, Duggan’s chief of staff, said the mayor is committed to meeting the expectations of voters.
Wiley said Duggan’s early lead in the polls demonstrates that “he’s delivering on what he promised.”
“(Residents) have every right to demand that their city tackle the tough issues that they deal with on a daily basis,” she said. “We see exactly what they see, and every day we are working on solutions.”
Young: ‘Message resonating’
Young said the poll was not a cause for concern. He told The Detroit News he’s “very confident” that “our message is resonating.”
“Polls don’t vote, people do,” Young said. “People are understanding what we are saying and what’s going on. The power of the people is always stronger than the people in power. We are going to prove that in August and we’re going to prove it in November.”
West side resident Stephanie Jenkins said she’s looking for change and backing Young.
“I like him because he’s young and he’s got 10 years up under his belt, and I like some of the things that he’s saying,” said Jenkins, 57, who attended a campaign event for Young this month.
Young, she said, “brings a fresher mind” and deserves a chance.
“I don’t agree with a lot of stuff Duggan is talking about,” Jenkins added. “I just think that we need to get somebody who is from Detroit.”
Duggan, the former Detroit Medical Center chief executive, moved from Livonia to Detroit in April 2012 to run for mayor.
Mark Covington, who lives near the city airport, said he supports Duggan because the city is moving in a “positive direction.”
“I don’t want to see us move backward,” said Covington, a farmer. “I just don’t think that a new mayor right now would keep that momentum going.”
Although the neighborhoods need more attention, he said hundreds of jobs have moved into the city under Duggan. But Covington said he wants to see the mayor invest more in urban agriculture, develop vacant lots and put more police patrols on the street.
Dorma McGruder, also a Duggan supporter, said the mayor has kept many of his campaign promises, and is visible and accessible at community events. “He promised houses would come down — they are,” McGruder said, who lives on the west side. “He promised the streetlights would go up — they are. Progress is being made.”
The poll revealed that 45 percent of the respondents said blight in Detroit has increased while 29 percent said it was down.
The city’s demolition program has been the centerpiece of the Duggan administration’s plan to deal with an estimated 40,000 blighted properties in the city. The effort, primarily paid with federal dollars, has brought down nearly 11,500 homes since spring 2014.
Angy Webb, president of the Joy Community Association, said she is seeing more investment and less crime in her neighborhood on the city’s northwest side.
“We are still fighting blight,” Webb said. “I’ve noticed we have a little bit of tire dumping. It’s not as bad as it’s been in the past here.”
Residents also aren’t satisfied with the city’s education system. According to the poll, 46 percent of the likely voters said education quality worsened in the last four years, while 28 percent said it stayed the same and 8 percent said it improved.
The mayor doesn’t run the school district. Duggan has advocated giving the mayor control of opening and closing public schools to help stabilize a district that has hemorrhaged students and state aid.
Rai Robinson is worried about funding and security for Detroit schools and cuts to recreation and after-hour programs.
“I feel like that’s why a lot of kids get into a lot of trouble, because they don’t have nothing motivating them,” Robinson said Thursday at a park near 14th and Euclid with her siblings and son, 3. “They don’t have no after-school programs, no sports, no none of that for them to go to. So, basically, after they get out of school they are just out in the streets getting into everything.”