Published: Dec. 5, 2013

Shutdown, health reform hurt Obama

Contact(s): Charles Ballard Department of Economics office: (517) 353-2961, Andy Henion Media Communications office: (517) 355-3294 cell: (517) 281-6949, Cynthia Kyle IPPSR office: (517) 353-1731

President Barack Obama’s approval rating in Michigan sagged to its lowest point in three years in the wake of this fall’s sequestration and glitches with the health care reform rollout.

Michigan State University’s fall 2013 State of the State Survey, released today, also shows that while Gov. Rick Snyder’s favorable rating picked up, consumer confidence was tepid.

Obama’s approval rating of 38.3 percent was down from 45.2 percent in the spring survey. It’s the Democratic president’s lowest quarterly rating since fall 2010 when it was 32.7 percent, said Charles Ballard, MSU professor of economics and director of the survey.

“The government shutdown and the problems with the Affordable Care Act website appear to have had a negative effect on the president’s ratings,” Ballard said.

The telephone survey of 978 Michigan adults, which has a margin of error of 3.1 percent, was conducted from Aug. 24 to Oct. 27. The government shutdown was Oct. 1-16; was launched Oct. 1.

Ballard noted that during the first five weeks of the survey – prior to October – Obama’s approval rating was 41.4 percent. During the last four weeks of the survey, which came after the health reform rollout, it dropped to 34 percent.

Still, Obama’s approval ratings in Michigan have remained relatively stable during the past four years, hovering at about 40 percent. By comparison, Democrat Bill Clinton’s approval ratings were below 40 percent in 1995 but rose into the 40s in 1996 and 1997, and into the 50s toward the end of his term. Republican George W. Bush peaked at 76 percent immediately after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, but his numbers dropped fairly steadily after that. Bush’s lowest approval rating was 13.7 percent in the fall of 2008, in the last survey before he left office.

Snyder sees rebound

Gov. Rick Snyder’s approval rating jumped 6.4 percentage points in the fall, to 35.6 percent – his highest since summer 2012 when it was 36.8 percent.

With the exception of spring 2013, when Snyder’s favorable rating fell to 29.2 percent, Ballard said the Republican governor’s numbers have been “amazingly steady” during the past two years, remaining in the mid-30s.

“Now that he has been in office for nearly three years, I think Michigan residents have a pretty good idea of what Gov. Snyder is like,” Ballard said. “Some like him more, some like him less, but for better or worse his ratings have not changed in the last couple of years.”

By comparison, Republican Gov. John Engler’s approval ratings were in high 40s and low 50s in the late 1990s. But the recession of 2001 took a toll, and Engler’s approval ratings fell to a low of 33.7 percent in fall 2002, in the last survey before he left office. Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s numbers, on the other hand, fell fairly steadily – from a high of 58.1 percent during her first year as governor (2003) to a low of 18 percent in the last survey before she left office in 2010.

Financial views tepid

Consumer confidence numbers were mostly flat or slightly down in the fall, suggesting Michigan residents weren’t particularly enthusiastic about their financial situation.

Only 49.7 percent of residents rated their current financial situation as excellent or good, the lowest reading in a year.

When asked if they’ll be better off or worse off one year from now, 26.1 percent said worse off – up from 22.7 percent in the spring. However, 54 percent believe they’ll be better off – a slight increase – and Ballard noted that those who believe they’ll be better off still outnumber the “worse-offs” by about 2 to 1.

Ballard said each consumer confidence indicator in the survey was well above the numbers from recession-plagued 2009, but well below the indicators from 1999 when the economy was humming and unemployment was about a third of what it is now.

“We’ve had four consecutive years of fairly steady but unspectacular growth,” Ballard said. “In the first decade of this century, Michigan’s economy slowed from high gear to low gear and then went into reverse. But now we have been moving along fairly steadily in second or third gear for several years.”

The State of the State Survey has been conducted since 1994 by the Institute for Public Policy and Social Research. IPPSR is a unit of MSU’s College of Social Science.

President Obama's approval rating dropped, Gov. Snyder's rose and consumer confidence was sluggish in the latest State of the State Survey directed by Charles Ballard, economist at Michigan State University.

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