MSUToday
Published: Oct. 31, 2018

Midterm election outlook via State of the State Survey

Contact(s): Cynthia Kyle IPPSR office: (517) 353-1731 kylec@msu.edu, Charles Ballard Department of Economics office: (517) 353-2961 ballard@msu.edu, Caroline Brooks Communications and Brand Strategy office: 517-432-0920 caroline.brooks@cabs.msu.edu

With midterm elections less than one week away, Democrats appear to lead in two top-of-ticket races, according to Michigan State University’s latest State of the State Survey, or SOSS.

Three ballot proposals – legalizing the sale and use of marijuana, allowing a citizen commission to redraw Michigan’s voting districts, and to broaden voting registration and absentee balloting – appear on their way to approval in early responses to the latest survey.

In Michigan’s gubernatorial race, Democrat Gretchen Whitmer appears to lead Republican Bill Schuette 47 percent to 39 percent, respectively, SOSS interviews conducted between Oct. 13 and 22. Democrat Debbie Stabenow leads Republican John James 49 percent to 42 percent, respectively.

“The message to Democrats is that you’re ahead, but it’s not over,” said Charles Ballard, MSU economics professor and SOSS director. “The end of September and early October survey found double-digit leads for both Whitmer and Stabenow, so we’re seeing the numbers tighten up. That’s not unusual; as we get closer to the election, people really begin to focus and that oftentimes leads to a closer race.”

For Attorney General, Republican Tom Leonard is outpacing Democrat Dana Nessel 40 percent to 37 percent, respectively, in SOSS responses.

“That puts them within the margin of error and extremely close,” Ballard said. “There are still of a lot of undecideds – there isn’t the same level of name recognition as there is for the gubernatorial candidates.”

The results include respondents who were undecided when first asked who they would vote for, but made a choice among major party candidates when asked a second time.

Ballard called for caution in reading the earliest responses to SOSS, the state’s only survey to tap the opinions and attitudes of Michigan citizens on a regular basis.

The analysis is early, based on respondents reached this month, he said. The survey doesn’t screen for likely voters.

Despite these results, leads can evaporate as elections near. As always, turnout will make the difference and in elections, a week and a half is a very long time, Ballard said.

“My read of past experience is that if there is a swing in the final days, it is often in the conservative and Republican direction.”

In ballot races:

  • Proposal 1, legalizing recreational marijuana, was ahead 58 percent “yes” to 37 percent “no.”
  • Michigan adults favored Proposal 2 calling for voting districts to be drawn by a citizen commission rather than Michigan’s Legislature, 42 percent “yes” to 32 percent “no.”
  • Proposal 3, known as “Promote the Vote” to allow for election-day registration and no-reason absentee voting, drew 68 percent “yes” choices and 19 percent “no.”

Ballard discussed the SOSS results with Arnold Weinfeld, interim director of MSU’s Institute for Public Policy and Social Research, or IPPSR, on the State of the State podcast, a production of MSU’s Institute for Public Policy and Social Research (IPPSR) and WKAR.

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