Traverse City Record-Eagle

Op-Ed Columns

December 23, 2012

George Weeks: Latest snapshots not flattering to Gov. Snyder

At the outset of this commentary on a negative poll about Gov. Rick Snyder, I emphasize that political polls are but snapshots in time and, as ex-Gov. Jim Blanchard was fond of saying, "like yo-yos."

Just last month, when the Public Policy Polling firm of North Carolina took a first look at the 2014 election landscape across the land, it cited how much Snyder had improved his popularity during his second year in office and that he led a generic Democrat for reelection by six points "even as Barack Obama won the state comfortably" this year.

But last week — after Snyder's abrupt reversal that led to his signing of the bill that made Michigan the 24th "right-to-work" state — Tom Jensen, director of Public Policy Polling, said in a press release: "We now find Snyder as one of the most unpopular Governors in the country. Only 38 percent of voters approve of him to 56 percent who disapprove.

"There are only 2 other sitting Governors we've polled on who have worse net approval ratings (negative 18 percent). He's dropped a net 28 points from our last poll on him, the weekend before the election, when he was at a + 10 spread (47 approval, 37 disapproval)."

Upon my inquiry, Jensen said PPP surveyed 42 sitting governors and those with worse ratings than Snyder were Democrats Pat Quinn of Illinois (negative 19 percent) and Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii (negative 26 percent).

The polling firm said: "There's not much doubt that it's the right to work law and his embrace of other actions by the Republican legislature that are driving this precipitous drop in Snyder's popularity. Only 40% of them say they would vote to keep the law enacted, while 49% would vote to return it."

Looking ahead to his possible reelection match ups, PPP said, "Snyder trails every Democrat we tested against him in a hypothetical match up," including being down by 11 points against 2010 opponent Lansing mayor Virg Bernero, who lost to Snyder by 18 points.

The firm's automated Dec. 13-16 telephone poll of 650 Michigan voters has a margin or error of plus or minus 3.8 percentage points.

The Detroit Free Press said, "Some critics say PPP's automated polling system is less reliable but the firm says it uses a larger sample and defends the accuracy of its track record in postings on its website."

The Detroit News said, "PPP is a Democratic firm and its Michigan sample included 38 percent Democrats, 28 percent Republican and 34 percent independents." It reported that Snyder spokeswoman Sara Wurfel said Snyder is optimistic voter mood will return in his favor once "they see our state's continued positive comeback."

Ever-shifting polling could be influenced by such things as Snyder's veto last week of legislation that would have allowed some gun owners to carry concealed weapons in schools, day care centers, churches and stadiums.

Also of possible influence, especially in Metro Detroit, is Snyder's signing of legislation that, after decades of debate, establishes a regional transit authority that could lead to long-anticipated federal funding.

As PPP pollster Jensen noted: "Snyder has shown some resilience already in his term. He was at a 33/50 spread just 3 months after taking office and had recovered to the point where he was on pretty solid ground until the actions of the last few weeks."

Among those who have survived high-profile protests and polling slumps is 1969-82 Gov. William G Milliken, who suffered politically from the state's bungled response in 1973 when cattle feed accidentally was mixed with PBB, a toxic chemical flame retardant that got into the food chain, and farmers had to destroy thousands of head of livestock.

Thousands of protesters stormed the Capitol; some staged a sit-in in Milliken's office; he was hung in effigy at the Mio site where cows were buried and a woman tried to punch her umbrella through a widow of his car; and his requests for resolution of the issue was rejected by a department head named by a commission, not him. But he was overwhelmingly elected in 1978, becoming the first Republican gubernatorial candidate to carry Wayne County since 1946.

So governors can survive the yo-yos of polls.

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