Biden, Sanders other Democrats lead Trump in Michigan poll
Lansing — While most Michigan voters don’t want Congress to impeach President Donald Trump, a majority said they would vote against him if the election were held today, according to a new statewide poll.
Both former Vice President Joe Biden of Delaware and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont showed 12-point margins over the first-term Republican incumbent in a Glengariff Group public opinion survey of 600 likely voters released to The Detroit News and WDIV-TV (Local 4). Three other Democrats included in the poll were preferred over Trump by less substantial margins.
Three years after he became the first Republican to win the state since 1988, fewer than 36% percent of Michigan voters say they would vote to re-elect Trump, compared with more than 51% who said they plan to vote for someone new.
Michigan's 16 electoral college votes went to Trump by 10,704 votes in 2016, the thinnest margin of any state. Two Democratic presidential candidates visited Michigan on Tuesday, a sign of its critical role in the 2020 election.
South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg (6 points), U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts (4 points) and Kamala Harris of California (3 points) polled ahead of the president in the Glengariff poll, but the advantages of Warren and Harris were within the 4-percentage-point margin of error.
Democrats who turned out in large numbers in the 2018 mid-term — helping to generate the most state voters in a gubernatorial race since 1962 — remain highly motivated heading into next year’s presidential contest and complicate Trump’s path to re-election, said pollster Richard Czuba.
“What we saw in Michigan in 2016 wasn’t this giant surge of Trump voters — it was an absolute apathy on behalf of independents and leaning Democrats to vote,” Czuba said. “We’re seeing the exact opposite heading into 2020.”
Democrats competing for the party’s nomination could take some hits if the 24-candidate primary race turns into a slug fest. But the early Michigan poll bodes well for the five top-tier contenders featured in the Glengariff poll, which was conducted May 28-30.
Biden leads Trump 53%-41%, with 4% undecided, and was the only top candidate from either party with favorable name identification, including among coveted independents. He polled particularly well with female voters despite recent accusations that the 76-year-old Democrat made women uncomfortable by violating their personal space.
Biden “is the only candidate for president on either side of the ballot that independents like, and that is a dramatic finding,” Czuba said.
Sanders, a democratic socialist who won Michigan’s 2016 presidential primary, leads Trump 53%-41%, with 5% undecided. Unlike Biden, he has a polling advantage over Trump among male voters and is doing particularly well among men with only a high school degree, a demographic that helped elect the president in 2016.
“Sanders has that uniqueness that he kind of disrupts the Trump pattern of less educated male voters,” Czuba said. “Biden exacerbates it.”
Warren, the U.S. senator from Massachusetts who campaigned in Michigan Tuesday, also is ahead of Trump among statewide voters. But the well-known Democrat trails Trump among independent voters and has less room to grow than emerging candidates like Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and Harris, the U.S. senator from California.
“She has a problem with independents,” Czuba said of Warren, who is competing with Sanders and others for the progressive left primary vote.
The poll shows Michigan voters are split on whether Trump obstructed former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference during the 2016 election. But Michigan voters oppose calls for Congress to being impeachment hearings 53% to 40%.
Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh responded to the poll numbers by predicting the president "will win Michigan again on the booming economy and on his record of bringing back manufacturing jobs as promised.
"Once voters find out that Democrats support eliminating their private health insurance while also funding health care for illegal immigrants, they will see the choice is clear," Murtaugh said.
Trump, Sanders, Warren and Harris are among the 2020 hopefuls who have already campaigned in Michigan, cementing the state's status as an early battleground.
Experts predict the Midwest could play an important role in both the primary and general elections as Democrats seek to retake states like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin that Trump flipped in 2016.
“I think Michigan is going to be absolutely critical to the coalition of states that the winning candidate puts together to get to the 270 electoral votes they need,” said Dave Dulio, a political science professor and director of the Center for Civic Engagement at Oakland University. “The Trump campaign is probably going to put a lot of resources into states like Michigan, and Democrats are going to try to get them back.”
Trump polled particularly poorly with African-American and female voters and would be well served to target women in Oakland and Macomb counties that turned toward Democrats in 2018, Czuba said.
“Southeast Michigan women — we’ve seen this now for a year and a half — continue to be a mammoth problem for the Republican Party," he said.
Trump's campaign is focused on field operations, and aides told The News last month they plan to win all the states the president won three years ago and more. In Michigan, they intend to close the gap in part by stressing the economy, manufacturing gains and efforts to combat the opioid crisis.
"We know what (issue) animates not just Michigan but a Michigan voter on you know, X, Y or Z Avenue at this address," said Kayleigh McEnany, press secretary for the Trump campaign.
"We know if this person cares about criminal justice reform, so when someone goes to their door they will be saying, did you hear about President Trump getting criminal justice reform done? … It will be specific to the individual and not just the state.”
The campaign isn't sweating over voters turned off by the president's rhetoric or behavior.
“Let Trump be Trump. He is unpredictable, of course, but part of that is his appeal for many," Murtaugh said. "We still hear it at rallies where people still say, you know, here's a guy who says the things that I think about or say to my friends. He is who he is.”
GOP still 'all-in'
While only 56% of Michigan voters know who Buttigieg is, he topped Trump 47%-41% in a hypothetical match-up, with 11% undecided. Harris held a 47%-44% edge over Trump.
Among top Democrats, only Biden and Sanders polled better than Trump with male voters. All five polled better than the president among female voters.
The good news for Trump is that Republican voters remain “all in” on the president, Czuba said.
Among strong GOP voters, 69% said they would “definitely” vote to re-elect Trump, and 14% said they would probably do so. But among independents, 34% said they would definitely elect someone new, and 16% said they would likely do so.
All told, the poll suggests historic levels of motivation among Michigan voters more than nine months out from the March primary and nearly 17 months until the general election.
Asked to rate their motivation on a scale of 1 to 10, Michigan voters averaged a 9.5.
The enthusiasm was consistent across the political spectrum, with strong Republicans and Democrats both reporting an average motivation score of 9.6, compared with 6.5 and 6.7 in October 2016.
“If Democratic voters emerge from the nomination process highly fractured and walking away, then there is this opportunity for a repeat of 2016,” Czuba said.
“But if they remain highly motivated as they appear to be and stick with (the eventual nominee), it is going to be a very difficult path for the president to repeat in Michigan.”
Staff Reporter Melissa Nann Burke contributed
About the poll
Glengariff Group paid for and conducted the May 28-30 poll of 600 likely Michigan voters. They are drawn from lists of registered voters, who are screened for whether they say they will likely or definitely vote in the 2020 election. The survey represents a snap shot in time of voters’ views, not a prediction of the 2020 election. Sixty-five percent of likely voters were interviewed by landline phone and the other 35% were surveyed by cellphones in a bid to have proper representation of younger voters. The poll has a margin of error of 4 percentage points, meaning any survey number potentially could be up to 4 points higher or lower than what the survey found. Glengariff surveyed 43% Democrats, 36% Republicans and 19% independents, reflecting Michigan’s historic Democratic Party advantage among registered voters. The survey also sought an accurate representation of the state's geographical, gender, racial and age balance of voters.