Poll: Majority of Respondents Approve of Whitmer’s Handling of COVID-19, Ready to Return to Work

The Detroit Regional Chamber released findings from a statewide poll of registered voters across the state that shows that the majority view COVID-19 as a public health threat, support how Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is handling the crisis, and are ready to return to work.
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In a poll conducted by the Detroit Regional Chamber, most respondents view COVID-19 as a health threat and support Whitmer’s actions. Most also said they would feel safe returning to work. // Stock photo

The Detroit Regional Chamber released findings from a statewide poll of registered voters across the state that shows that the majority view COVID-19 as a public health threat, support how Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is handling the crisis, and are ready to return to work.

The poll shows how Michiganders have reacted to the state’s public health and economic crises, demonstrating consistencies and mood shifts compared to its poll conducted April 15-16.

“As the state’s Stay at Home Executive Order slowly begins to lift, and with evidence of growing frustration with these orders from some quarters, the chamber wanted to provide employers of all types and sizes a clearer picture of employees’ comfort returning to work and their view of the order,” says Sandy K. Baruah, president of CEO of the chamber.

The general population poll was commissioned by the chamber and conducted by its polling partner, Gengariff Group Inc. It polled 600 likely Michigan voters from May 12-16.

About 86.3 percent of those polled said COVID-19 is a threat to public health, while 9.8 percent disagreed. About 58.8 percent believe the threat has been balanced or downplayed, compared to 32.2 percent to believe the threat has been exaggerated. While 55.5 percent are more concerned about their health, 21.7 percent are more concerned about their financial situation.

Of those polled, 63.7 percent approve of Whitmer’s handling of the pandemic, including 44.7 percent who strongly approve. About 32.8 percent disapprove. The approval level is an increase from 57 percent found in the chamber’s April poll. About 71.7 percent support reopening the economy gradually to avoid a second wave of the virus, while 25.7 percent said the economic damage is worse than the health damage and the economic restart needs to occur quickly.

About 58.5 percent said the state is opening up about right; 7 percent say it is opening too fast, and 32.3 percent said it is opening too slowly. About 66.8 percent believe Michigan’s response to the crisis made sense, and 29.2 percent disagree.

Those polled recognized that the economic impact is significant – 24 percent characterized the impact on their household finances as catastrophic or major. This is down compared to April’s finding of 47 percent. About 16 percent reported being worried about putting food on their tables, down from 26 percent in April.

About 23 percent of workers are working at reduced hours and worry about putting food on the table. About 50.9 percent of those working for companies with up to 10 employees and 43.8 percent of those working for companies with 11-25 employees have either been laid off of had their hours sharply reduced. Of employees of small businesses with less than 10 employees, 34.3 percent said the results had been catastrophic or major.

While the chamber’s poll in April showed 61 percent of respondents felt safe or somewhat safe returning to the workplace, 66.1 percent now report they feel safe going back to work. About 32.7 percent do not yet feel safe. Small business employees feel the most comfortable returning to work, with 83.3 percent of those working for companies with 11-25 employees reporting they feel safe. While the statewide average for feeling safe returning to work was 66.1 percent, 58.3 percent of metro Detroit workers feel comfortable returning.

While Whitmer’s approval is strong, 19.3 percent of Republicans polled approve of how she’s handling the pandemic. Of voters who identify as strong Republican, 70.4 believe the COVID-19 threat has been exaggerated, compared to 32.2 percent of all those polled.

Of strong Republican participants, 60.7 percent said they believe the economic damage is worse than the illness, compared to 21.7 percent of all participants. A majority of Republicans said Michigan is opening about right, with 77 percent of those who identify as strong republican said it is opening too slowly.

Republicans said they believe the recent protests at the state capitol sent the right message, especially Republican men in the age categories of 40-49 and 50-64, with more than 60 percent agreeing. A majority – 69 percent – of all voters said the protests sent the wrong message.

“Differences in Michigan’s handling of COVID-19 are not based on region, age, type of work, or education levels,” says Richard Czuba, the founder of Glengariff Group Inc. “They are fundamentally based in partisan affiliation. Strong Republican voters — particularly strong Republican male voters — believe COVID-19 is overplayed as a threat, believe Lansing protests send the right message, and are the least likely to wear masks when going out. They fundamentally differ in their approach from Democratic voters, Independent voters, and even leaning Republican voters.”

The chamber conducted a similar statewide poll in April with the Glengariff Group to get an early view into how the pandemic was impacting Michigan households. The poll from May contains some of the same questions and additional questions about the prospect of reopening Michigan businesses of all sizes.

About 42.8 percent of Michigan voters approve of President Donald Trump’s handling of the pandemic, compared to 50.4 percent who disapprove. In April, respondents disapproved by a margin of 44 percent-50 percent.

By a margin of 77 percent-19.6 percent, workers trust their workplaces to keep them safe. This is an increase from 60 percent in April.

In April, voters approved of Whitmer’s handling of the pandemic by a margin of 57 percent-37 percent.

The full findings from the May Michigan Voter Poll are available here. The April public opinion poll is available here, and the chamber’s regional executive survey is available here.

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