Poll: Michigan voters blame Trump for shutdown

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News
President Donald Trump walks through the colonnade of the White House on arrival to announce a deal to temporarily reopen the government, Friday, Jan. 25, 2019, from the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington.

Michigan voters blame President Donald Trump over congressional Democrats for the record-setting 35-day partial government shutdown, and 53 percent say they would vote for "someone new" in the 2020 election, according to a new statewide poll. 

The survey conducted last week of 600 likely Michigan voters and released to The Detroit News and WDIV-TV found that 23 percent would "definitely" vote to re-elect Trump in two years and 49 percent would "definitely" vote for someone else.

In 2016, Trump won the Great Lakes State by 10,704 votes over Democrat Hillary Clinton or two-tenths of a percentage point.

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The survey also found 45 percent said they believe the recent shutdown was Trump's fault, 26 percent blame congressional Democrats and 22 percent blame everyone equally. 

By a 21-point margin, a majority of respondents also oppose a Southern border wall, with 58 percent saying the government should reopen without spending Trump's requested $5.7 billion on a wall and 37 percent in favor of spending the $5.7 billion. 

The shutdown ended late Friday after Trump announced an agreement to reopen the government for three weeks and give lawmakers a chance to negotiate on border security funding.

"We’ve got three weeks before potentially we face another shutdown or some significant movement on this issue," said Richard Czuba, who conducted the poll for the Lansing-based Glengariff Group.

"It’s hard to imagine how a deal gets done, given poll numbers we’ve seen like this. Michigan is very reflective of nation as a whole."

The survey, conducted Jan. 24-26, had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. About 65 percent of respondents were reached on landline phones, while 35 percent were contacted on cellphones. 

The White House did not comment on the poll Tuesday. 

Country's direction 

Opposition to the wall was particularly high among independent voters (62 percent) and women (62 percent). 

Based on source of news, the only group that does not blame Trump for the shutdown or oppose funding for his border wall were those who watch Fox News. 

Michigan voters are narrowly divided on a potential deal to create a path to permanent citizenship for immigrants brought to the country illegally as children, in exchange for wall funding — with 44 percent in support and 42 percent opposed. 

"They’re statistically split on this. The opposition isn’t necessarily to the path for the Dreamers but the opposition comes from the wall. They want the Dreamers issue decided on its own merits," Czuba said. 

The shutdown also appeared to influence how voters viewed the direction of the country, Czuba said, with a 10-point drop from late October in the percentage of Michigan voters who believe the nation is on the right track.

Nearly 56 percent of Michigan respondents said the country is on the wrong track, as opposed to 28 percent who said it's on the right track.

The results are similar to an Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll that found 70 percent of 1,062 respondents surveyed across the nation say the country is on the wrong track compared with 28 percent saying it's heading in the right direction. The Jan. 16-20 poll had a margin of error of 4.1 percentage points.

"Previous to this in surveys, people were saying, well, the economy is doing OK," Czuba said. "But the shutdown was a traumatic event, and people were reacting to it."

Overall, the shutdown didn't affect Michigan voters' impression of the president or his approval rating, with those numbers largely unchanged from last year, according to the survey.

Nearly 38 percent of voters had a favorable view of Trump, compared with 53 percent unfavorable. Nearly 44 percent approve of the job the president is doing, while 52 percent disapprove. 

While voter motivation typically ebbs in January of an off-election year, Michigan voters are already expressing an "unprecedented" level of motivation to vote in the 2020 election — the highest levels ever measured by the Glengariff Group, Czuba said.  

Respondents said they are motivated to vote at 9.6 out of 10, which is higher than the 9.4 measured in late October 2018, suggesting turnout in 2020 could be "enormous" if this keeps up, he said.  

"Donald Trump is motivating voters — for him and against him. What is interesting in these numbers are how few people are undecided or soft in their positions. You’re either with him or you’re not," Czuba said.

"It's like the 2018 election was just the warm-up act for 2020."

2020 election

When Trump narrowly won Michigan in 2016, it was the first time a Republican presidential nominee scored a victory here since 1988. But he is starting his re-election campaign in a vulnerable spot, based on the poll. 

"You could argue too that Trump carrying Michigan in the first place was a fluke," said Kyle Kondik of the University of Virginia Center for Politics.

"I don’t really think Trump would win Michigan if the election were today, but the election’s not today, so who cares?"

Czuba stressed the disproportional impact that independent voters play in deciding which presidential candidates win Michigan.

Independents currently say they are more motivated to vote in 2020 than they were in 2016, when both Trump and Clinton had high unfavorable ratings and more than 5 percent of the electorate backed alternative candidates. 

A majority of independents, 55 percent, said in the survey they would vote for someone new for president in 2020. About 24 percent would vote to re-elect Trump.

Sixteen percent of independent voters would "definitely" vote to re-elect Trump, while 45 percent would "definitely" vote for someone new. 

Former Vice President Joe Biden

"This is a stunning challenge that the Trump re-election campaign faces with independent voters," Czuba said.

"They appeal very strongly to their base but have done little to nothing to expand that base to independents, and it’s reflected and shown in these numbers."

About 58 percent of women surveyed said they'd vote for someone besides Trump, while 48 percent of men would back the president. 

In the Michigan survey, Trump "lost" when matched against hypothetical challengers — likely Democratic candidates Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. 

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.

In a potential match-up against Biden, the former vice president from Delaware led Trump 53 percent to 40 percent, with about 5 percent of voters undecided.

In a match-up against Sanders, the Vermont senator led Trump by 11 percentage points, with 6 percent undecided. 

Against Trump, Harris leads 47 percent to 42, with 10 percent undecided. And Warren leads 46 percent to 43 percent, also with 10 percent undecided. 



Nation on wrong track

After a small rise in optimism, an increasing majority of 600 likely Michigan voters say the country is on the wrong track.

Date                       Right track Wrong track

January 2018            33%        54%
September 2018       38%        48%
Early Oct. 2018         37%        51%
Late Oct. 2018           38%       51%
January 2019             28%       56%

Note: Jan. 24-26 poll had margin of error of plus-minus 4 percentage points.

Source: Glengariff Group Inc. 

Seeking new president?

More likely Michigan voters say they would prefer a new commander in chief over re-electing President Donald Trump.

Re-elect President Trump   31%
Depends on Dem nominee 15%
Elect someone new             53%
Don't know                             1%

Note: Jan. 24-26 poll had margin of error of plus-minus 4 percentage points.

Source: Glengariff Group Inc.