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Poll: Majority of voters support Gov. Whitmer's handling of COVID-19 crisis

governor whitmer
State of Michigan

Nearly 64% of Michigan voters approve of Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In contrast, support for President Donald Trump’s handling of the crisis is more than 20 points lower at about 43%.

That’s according to a mid-May statewide poll of Michigan registered voters commissioned by the Detroit Regional Chamber, a southeast Michigan business advocacy group, and conducted by Glengariff Group, a non-partisan polling firm.

“I’ve been polling for 37 years now,” said Richard Czuba, founder of the Glengariff Group. “It’s the highest number I’ve seen for a governor.

"Michigan voters are looking at what Governor Whitmer is doing," Czuba said. "And it's reflecting a lot of how they feel, which is they realize COVID is a threat, they realize it's going to be around, but we need to gradually and slowly re-engage and get moving and be as safe as possible."

A Fox News poll conducted a month earlier shows the same 64% overall approval of Whitmer’s handling of the pandemic as the mid-May Glengariff Group poll.

The results of the mid-May Glengariff Group poll showing support for Whitmer come amid protests, Republican criticism, and lawsuits opposing her actions and policies aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus.

The poll shows a sharp partisan divide – with 96.2% of Democrats supporting Whitmer’s performance, along with about two-thirds of independents.

In contrast, 78.5% of Republicans disapprove of Whitmer’s performance dealing with the pandemic.

The poll also reveals one group as an outlier in its views about the seriousness of the public health threat of COVID-19, about protests at the state Capitol against Whitmer’s stay at home orders, and about wearing face masks.

“Those who weren’t willing to wear masks, who support the protests, don’t think COVID-19 is as big of a threat turned out to be men who strongly affiliate with the Republican Party,” said Czuba.

An overwhelming majority (86.3%) of Michigan voters overall view COVID-19 as a threat to public health. But only 57.6% of men who strongly affiliate with the Republican Party hold that view, compared to 76.8% of strongly affiliated Republican women. 

About 69% of Michigan voters overall believe the protests send the wrong message. In contrast, 57.6% of strongly affiliated Republican men believe the protests send the right message, compared to 44.9% of Republican women.

Nearly 89% of women overall report that they wear a mask when they go out, compared to 71.9% of men. That compares to 48.5% of Republican men and 72.5% of Republican women.

The poll reveals that the majority of voters think that it’s necessary to learn to live with COVID-19 and that means getting the economy going again, but with protections in place to keep as many people as safe as possible.

About two-thirds of voters said they feel safe going back to work. That spikes to 83.3% for those working in businesses with 11 to 25 employees.

However, 58% of African Americans, who have been the hardest hit by the coronavirus and experienced a vastly disproportionate share of COVID-19 related deaths, feel unsafe about returning to work. 

The poll indicates that Michigan voters do not seem to be in a hurry to resume optional activities. They express the most comfort with going to the grocery store and their doctor’s office, and the least with going to a movie theatre or sporting event.

The poll of 600 registered voters was conducted by live operators between May 12 and 16, 2020, and has a margin of error of +/-4.0%.

Virginia Gordan has been a part-time reporter at Michigan Radio since fall 2013. She has a general beat covering news topics from across the state.
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