Nearly 70% of Michigan voters say country is on wrong track: new poll

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

The majority of Michigan voters disapprove of President Joe Biden's performance and are concerned about the country's direction, according to a new poll that's a warning sign for Democrats, five months before a pivotal election in the battleground state.

Four times as many participants in the survey said the country was on the wrong track, 69%, than said the country was on the right track, 17%. The numbers were fueled by worries about the economy, inflation and gas prices.

The Detroit Regional Chamber commissioned the poll of 600 registered voters in Michigan. They were contacted from May 9-13. The survey, conducted by the Glengariff Group, had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

"Any time you're the party in power and the wrong track (percentage) looks like that, you should worry," said Richard Czuba, a pollster and founder of the Glengariff Group.

President Joe Biden speaks to members of the media on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Monday, May 30, 2022, after returning from Wilmington, Delaware.

The results debuted on the first day of the chamber's annual Mackinac Policy Conference, where political and business leaders gather on Mackinac Island to discuss Michigan's future.

In November, state voters will decide whether to reelect the three Democrats who hold the state's top offices, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Attorney General Dana Nessel and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. Also, every seat in the GOP-controlled state Legislature will be on the ballot.

While frustration with Biden's administration could cause problems for state level Demcorats, there were some positive signs for Whitmer in the new data.

Voters' opinions of her performance were more favorable than their thoughts on Biden's, and more participants thought Michigan was on the right track than believed the nation was on the right track.

Half of the voters surveyed said Michigan was on the wrong track while 32% said the state was on the right track.

It's the economy

The pessimism about the country's direction was directly linked to the economy: 73% of participants said the economy was on the wrong track with 19% saying it was on the right track.

When voters were asked an open ended question on what the most important issue was in Michigan, inflation was the dominant answer: 33% said inflation. The next most frequent answers were road or infrastructure at 13% and abortion or the future of the U.S. Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision at 11%.

Gasoline prices are displayed at a gas station in Vernon Hills, Ill., Friday, April 1, 2022.

Among the voters who said the economy was on the wrong track, 44% cited inflation and the cost of goods while 10% said the reason was gas prices.

"Inflation is overwhelming the entire conversation," Czuba said.

Whitmer and Democrats in the state Legislature advanced a plan on May 19 to provide $500 "inflation relief payments" to households with gross incomes of less than $250,000.

However, Republicans, who control the state Legislature, have called for long-term tax cuts, including decreasing Michigan's 4.25% personal income tax. So far, the policy disagreement over how to react to rising prices and billions of dollars in surplus funds has delayed final action on the topic in Lansing.

Last week, the Michigan Senate approved a series of bills to lift the state's 6% sales and use tax and 27-cent-per-gallon excise tax on gasoline from mid-June through mid-September. The measure had Democratic and Republican support.

Concerns over the economy don't appear to be strongly swaying how voters view their own economic position, according to the Detroit Regional Chamber poll.

Asked if they were personally doing better, worse or about the same economically as in the past, 48% said they were doing the same, 23% said they were doing better, and 28% said they were doing worse.

Biden, Whitmer numbers

Whitmer's poll numbers continue to outpace Biden's.

Among those surveyed, 49% said they approved of the Democratic governor's performance while 41% disapproved with 10% having no opinion.

Whitmer's approval percentages have held somewhat steady over the last year. She'll seek a second term in November. A crowded field of Republican candidates will compete for their party's nomination in the Aug. 2 primary.

MI Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addresses the crowd during the Michigan Democratic Party's 2022 State Endorsement Convention at Huntington Place in downtown Detroit, Saturday afternoon, April 9, 2022.

Among self-identifying independent voters, 42% approved of Whitmer's performance, and 40% disapproved.

Biden's numbers were starkly different among independents with 18% approving and 63% disapproving.

Overall, Biden's job performance numbers were underwater with 36% approving and 55% disapproving. Those with no opinion of the Democratic president's performance represented 9%.

Biden will be up for reelection in November 2024.

Staff Writer Beth LeBlanc contributed.