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Whitmer keeps favorable edge with Michigan voters, poll finds

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer maintains a favorable image with a majority of likely Michigan voters, according to a poll released Tuesday by The Detroit News and WDIV-TV. 

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaks on Monday, June 1.

The first-term Democratic governor was viewed favorably by 51% of respondents while 41% said they viewed her unfavorably. It was a slight drop from her 52% favorability rating in early September but a decrease that remains within the poll's margin of error of plus-minus 4 percentage points.

The Sept. 30-Oct. 3 survey of 600 likely state voters found Whitmer continues to be popular among women and a majority of independent voters, a key voting bloc in any Michigan election. 

About 45% of independent voters had a favorable impression of the governor, as did 56% of female voters, according to the poll by Lansing-based Glengariff Group.

“The key in Michigan is always what do the independents think because they make the decisions in this state,” said pollster Richard Czuba, founder of Glengariff Group. 

The polling seems to contradict months of protests over her COVID-19 executive orders, recall efforts and a Friday Michigan Supreme Court ruling invalidating the law that underpinned her executive orders. 

An official's favorability rating is more of a personal measurement than his or her job approval rating, which gauges performance in the individual's role, Czuba said.

While Whitmer’s job approval wasn’t measured in the Sept. 30-Oct. 3 survey, 59% of voters in the early September survey said they approved of the job the governor was doing. 

Read the survey: How Michigan voters feel ahead of the Nov. 3 election

“It’s pretty safe to deduce that her job approval hasn’t shifted in a major way either since her favorable, unfavorable hasn’t shifted significantly,” Czuba said. 

Shannon Gottman was among the poll participants who had a favorable impression of the governor, based in part on Whitmer's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"She went out on a limb actually, and I felt like she really could of hurt her political career doing what she did for us," said Gottman, a 41-year-old Waterford resident. "She’s protecting us in everything that she's doing.”

The Michigan Supreme Court order invalidating Whitmer’s COVID-19 executive orders occurred while the Sept. 30-Oct. 3 survey was being conducted.

It likely will take time for voters to gauge what impact, if any, that decision will have on the governor’s outlook with voters, Czuba said. 

“This is one where we’re going to need some time to tell down the road what effect that has,” he said. “Voters don’t often get caught up in the sausage-making in Lansing. They just care about the results.”

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eleblanc@detroitnews.com