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Jan. 20, 2015

For first time, Snyder's ratings top Obama’s

President Obama’s approval rating in Michigan sagged to its lowest point in more than four years, while Gov. Rick Snyder’s ratings held steady. As a result, Snyder’s approval rating was higher than Obama’s for the first time in the four years both have been in office.

Michigan State University’s fall 2014 State of the State Survey, released today, also found that consumer confidence in Michigan is holding steady.

Obama’s 34.8 percent approval rating was down from 38.4 percent in the spring survey, and down from 48.4 percent in the winter of 2013. Survey director Charles Ballard said this is the Democratic president’s lowest quarterly rating since fall 2010, when it was 32.7 percent.

“Despite an improving economy, the president’s ratings have continued to sag,” said Ballard, MSU professor of economics. “Relatively weak ratings for the president probably contributed to the results of the midterm elections, in which Republicans won the governor’s race and increased their majorities in both houses of the Michigan Legislature.”

Still, Obama’s approval ratings in Michigan remain far above the lowest approval rating in the history of the survey – Republican George W. Bush’s rating of 13.7 percent in the fall of 2008, in the last survey before he left office. By comparison, Democrat Bill Clinton’s approval ratings were below 40 percent in 1995, but rose into the 50s toward the end of his term. George W. Bush peaked at 76 percent immediately after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, but his numbers dropped fairly steadily after that.

Snyder holds steady

Snyder’s approval rating rose to 37.9 percent, up slightly from 37.1 percent in the spring.

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 “remarkably steady” over the past three years, remaining in the middle- to upper-30 percent range.

Those steady ratings were good enough to win re-election for Snyder, who defeated Democratic challenger Mark Schauer on Nov. 4.

By comparison, Republican Gov. John Engler’s approval ratings were in the 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. On the other hand, Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s numbers 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 stay about the same

Consumer confidence numbers also held fairly steady in the fall. Some 50.5 percent of residents rated their current financial situation as excellent or good. That’s down slightly from 51.3 percent in the spring, but the difference is not statistically significant.

When asked to compare their current financial situation with the situation of one year ago, 38.7 percent said they are better off. That’s an improvement from 35.5 percent in the spring. At the same time, 30.2 percent said they were worse off than a year ago, which is the lowest and best reading since 2002.

Some 55.9 percent said they believe they’ll be better off a year from now, while only 21.9 percent believe they will be worse off. Both of those readings are similar to where they have been for the past two years, with the “better-offs” outnumbering the “worse-offs” by more than 2 to 1.

Ballard said each consumer-confidence indicator in the survey was much better than the numbers from recession-plagued 2009, but well below the indicators from 1999, when the unemployment rate was below 4 percent.

“In the first decade of this century, Michigan’s economy slowed from high gear to low gear and then went into reverse. But we have now had five consecutive years of economic growth,” Ballard said. “That’s reflected in consumer-confidence numbers that are much better than they were in 2009.”

The telephone survey, including both cell phones and landlines, contacted 1,002 Michigan adults between Sept. 10 and Nov. 26. The margin of error is 3.1 percent.

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.