Saturday, April 19, 2014

Michigan Senate

Democrat Senator Carl Levin announced that he would retire instead of running for another term.  Since the announcement of the retirement, there have not been many candidates who announced that they would run to fill the seat.  Gary Peters, Representative of Michigan's 14th district in the U.S. House of Representatives, is essentially the Democratic nominee.  Former Michigan Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land is the Republican nominee.  Despite the Democratic leaning of the state, the Senate race has been competitive and the Republican Party thinks that this Senate race is one that they can steal from the Democratic Party.

In the most recent poll from Public Policy Polling (PPP), we have a better idea of what is happening in the state.  Peters who has a favorability of 26/27 overall leads Land (28/31) by 5 points, 41-36 in the match-up PPP asked. The most recent polls not put out by PPP have basically alternated the lead between the two candidates.  This is a little surprising as the early polls on the Senate race had Peters consistently leading.  One campaign manager who has run campaigns in Michigan is very surprised that Michigan is showing as a toss-up as the registration for the state and his own experience indicates that the state will look more Democratic as the election draws near.  So, let's dig a little deeper to the PPP poll that was released.

Let's look at party id and this poll:


Democratic
Republican
Independent/Other
Land
9
70
33
Peters
75
11
33
Not sure
16
19
33

In December of 2013 where Land had a slight lead overall, Land led Peters among independents by 17 points.  So, what has changed in the last 4 months?  Let's look at other factors that PPP polled.  

The simplest answer would be that all politics are presidential and the approval ratings for Barack Obama are driving this decrease.  The simplest answer does not answer the entire question.  In December of 2013, Obama's approval ratings in December of 2013 among independents were 37/59.  In April of 2014, the rating is 38/50.  We see a general decrease in the unfavorable ratings but not a major increase in the favorable ratings.  The decrease in unfavorable ratings among independents certainly helps Peters but it does not explain the 17 point difference.

One of the questions that PPP asked is whether or not people support or oppose repealing the right to work law in Michigan.  In December of 2013, 42% of independents supported repealing the right to work law.  In April, the support for repealing this law increased by 6 points.  39% of independents opposed repealing the law in December compared to 31% who opposed repealing the law in April.  Even though the right to work law is more of a local issue, it would not be surprising to link repealing the law to the Senate candidates based on party lines. This might explain a few points for how Peters has been helped.

The Republican Party has decided that they want to make this year's election all about the Affordable Care Act (ACA), just like 2010 and 2012.  The favorability for the ACA among independents in Michigan was 29/57 in December and 33/52 in April.  That's only a few points but certainly helps Peters.  It continues the trend that we are seeing that the ACA is gaining popularity as it is implemented.  The views on how the ACA was implemented has also dramatically changed fitting with what we see elsewhere.  In December of 2013, only 18% of Michigan independents saw the implementation as a success.  76% of Michigan independents viewed the implementation of the law as unsuccessful.  But a few months later, in April, 35% of Michigan independents viewed the implementation as a success.  60% of Michigan independents viewed the implementation as unsuccessful.  That's a HUGE swing.  If the GOP continues to make the ACA the central point of the campaign in 2014 and these trends continue, Michigan will not be a toss-up.


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