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May 10, 2018

Survey says: Michigan voters undecided on governor elections but have opinions on pot

With the 2018 election six months away, Michigan State University’s Institute for Public Policy and Social Research released findings from its latest State of the State Survey, or SOSS, revealing that many voters still are undecided on candidates but have strong opinions on controversial ballot issues.

Results showed strong support for the legalization of marijuana, as well as for an end to gerrymandering of legislative district lines.

The survey also indicated that Michigan adults find Democrat Gretchen Whitmer leading GOP gubernatorial candidates – but many voters remain undecided.

Sixty-one percent of Michigan residents said they want to legalize marijuana, with 34 percent opposing legalization and only five percent remaining undecided.

“Marijuana legalization is the only issue with fewer than 15 percent undecided. Since the marijuana initiative has a large lead with relatively few undecideds, it appears likely that it will pass,” said MSU economics professor Charles Ballard, the director of SOSS.

Although the marijuana initiative has a big lead overall, the support for legalization is starkly different among different age groups. Only 30 percent of Michiganders aged 65 and over were in favor of legalization, which contrasts with 62 percent support among those aged 30 to 64 and 80 percent support from those under the age of 30.

Another key ballot initiative would create a citizen commission to draw legislative district boundaries, which the Michigan Legislature currently draws every 10 years. “This ‘anti-gerrymandering’ initiative, spearheaded by a group called ‘Voters Not Politicians,’ would create a commission made up of four Democrats, four Republicans and five independents,” Ballard said.

The SOSS data reveal that 53 percent of respondents supported the anti-gerrymandering initiative, 27 percent opposed it and 20 percent remained undecided. The largest support for moving to this commission-based system came from those between the ages of 18 to 29, Ballard said.

Republicans controlled the state government in 2011, which is the last time when legislative boundaries were drawn.

“It’s not surprising that Democrats are more favorable toward this initiative than Republicans, with 62 percent of Democrats in favor,” Ballard said. “However, even Republicans tended to support the move away from gerrymandering, with 45 percent in favor and 33 percent opposed.”

According to the SOSS survey, Whitmer leads the race for governor against either of the leading Republican candidates, Brian Calley or Bill Schuette. However, in each case, the data reveal that nearly a quarter of respondents were undecided about how they would vote.

“Although our survey shows Gretchen Whitmer in the lead against either Brian Calley or Bill Schuette, her leads are not very large,” Ballard said. “With lots of people undecided and with months to go before the election, the governor’s race is far from over. Much will depend on which campaign does the best job of getting out its message and its voters.”

  • In a race between Whitmer and Calley, 42 percent preferred Whitmer and 34 percent preferred Calley with 24 percent undecided.
  • Whitmer also leads Schuette, 41 percent to 35 percent with 24 percent undecided.
  • Whitmer led Calley among women by 49 percent to 28 percent. Whitmer had a narrower lead among women with Schuette, with 44 percent favoring Whitmer versus 32 percent for Schuette. Men were about equally divided between Whitmer and either Calley or Schuette.
  • Seventy percent of black Michigan residents favored Whitmer to 12 percent for Calley; and black Michiganders favored Whitmer over Schuette by 73 percent to 12 percent. Among whites, the Whitmer-Calley race is a statistical dead heat, but Schuette led Whitmer by 5 percentage points.

The State of the State Survey is the only survey conducted in Michigan designed to systematically monitor the public mood on important issues statewide. The survey has been conducted since 1994 by the Institute for Public Policy and Social Research, or IPPSR. IPPSR is a unit of MSU’s College of Social Science.