Michigan voters worried about inflation, but secure in own finances, poll finds

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

A majority of Michigan residents are concerned about inflation and the future of the nation's economy, but are secure in their own personal finances and job stability, according to a poll released Wednesday.

The inflation fears combined with concerns over President Joe Biden's vaccine mandate for businesses with more than 100 employees appear to be keeping the president's polling numbers consistently low in Michigan, according to the Glengariff Group survey of 600 registered voters between Nov. 29 and Dec. 3. The poll was done for the Detroit Regional Chamber. 

"I think Biden's numbers are tied both to inflation, but they look an awful lot like the mandate positions, where voters are on the 100 employee mandate," said pollster Richard Czuba. 

Customer Sadie Riedel and her son, Braeden, 2, both of Rochester, shop for fruit, veggies and soup in November at Holiday Market in Royal Oak. A poll found that a majority of Michigan voters are concerned about the increasing prices of goods or inflation.

The poll, which had a margin of error of plus-minus 4 percentage points, found 63% of voters said the nation was on the wrong track. Strong Democratic voters were the only group surveyed that said the country is on the right track 52% to 36%. 

Nearly 90% of voters said they were concerned about inflation and most said they had seen increases in the cost of gas and groceries, according to the poll. 

But when it comes to personal economic circumstances, 74% of voters said they are economically the same or better off than they were in the past. And 82% said they were not concerned about their job security.

Those differences show "the disconnect or the juxtaposition between what voters feel about their own economic situation and how they view the economic situation at large," said Sandy Baruah, president and CEO for the Detroit Regional Chamber. 

Biden's vaccine mandate for businesses with more than 100 employees was opposed by voters, 54% to about 41% who supported it. Democrats supported the legislation while Republicans opposed it. Independents opposed the mandate 58% to 34%, according to the survey. 

Those numbers seem to parallel Biden's job approval numbers, which stand at 39% approve and 53% disapprove, Czuba said. The results remained largely unchanged from September polling, he said. 

By contrast, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's job approval numbers improved slightly to 48% approve and 44% disapprove, up from a little below 48% approve and 46% disapprove in September. The slight increase appears to be due to Independent voters, among whom Whitmer improved by 17 percentage points between the September and December polls, Czuba said. 

"When independents make the decision in Michigan, that's the number we have to keep watching," Czuba said.

An approval rating below 50% normally means an incumbent is vulnerable. Whitmer is expected to run for re-election next year, and more than 10 Republican candidates are competing for the party's nomination to challenge her.

The differences between Biden and Whitmer's numbers may be more closely linked to the vaccine mandate than inflation woes, Czuba said. 

"If you've noticed, Gov. Whitmer has pulled away from the mandate issue and her numbers are much stronger as a result," Czuba said.

The Democratic governor reportedly told business leaders in Montcalm County last week that Biden's coronavirus vaccine mandate was "a problem for all of us" when asked about the possibility of worker shortages increasing because of the requirement. She said she understood the leaders' concerns about the mandate, local outlet the Daily News reported.

Czuba said inflation and views on the economy are playing a role in depressing the governor's and president's approval ratings.

"But I do think the mandate number is really what's separating the Whitmer and the Biden numbers right now," he said.