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Michigan to Democrats: Tariffs hurt, but we aren’t sold on Medicare for all

The majority of Michigan residents say tariffs are bad for the state economy, climate change is a threat to the Great Lakes and the nation needs better border security. 

They also are not sold on the idea of free Medicare for every American, are split on taxpayer-funded college tuition and a high percentage say President Donald Trump is the most important issue facing the nation.

The findings are part of a new statewide poll released Thursday by Detroit Regional Chamber to highlight which top issues to Michigan voters in advance of the 2020 presidential Democratic debates at the Fox Theatre in  Detroit on Tuesday and Wednesday.

“Michigan is going to be a key state in next year’s election, so we believe it is important the candidates understand how Michigan residents feel on the issues,” said Sandy Baruah, president and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber. 

“The statewide survey shows that while there is a consensus among Michigan voters on major key issues, there is also some divisiveness across ideologies. We ask our elected officials and those who seek office to keep that front of mind between now and next November.”

Among the findings: 

  • Nearly half of voters, 47 percent, believe tariffs on cars hurt Michigan’s auto industry and tariffs on foreign products hurt consumers.
  • Voters are split on Medicare for all, with 51 percent opposing the elimination of private insurance in favor of the plan. They’re split on the repealing the Affordable Care Act, with 34 percent each strongly supporting and strongly opposing its repeal.
  • By a nearly 2-1 ratio, voters say climate change is a threat to Michigan and the Great Lakes.
  • By a 3-1 ratio, 56 percent to 17 percent, voters believe immigrants are good for Michigan’s economy.
  • Most feel the nation’s economy is on the right track (62 percent) but are less optimistic about their own families. More than half say their household earnings haven’t improved in three years: 15.5 percent said they’ve been hurt, while 47.5 percent had no change.

The survey, conducted by Glengariff Group Inc. based in Lansing, was a live operator telephone survey of likely 2020 Michigan voters conducted from July 17-20, 2019. The margin of error is +/- 4 percent with a 95 percent level of confidence. Forty percent of respondents were contacted by cellphone, and 60 percent were contacted by landline. 

Richard Czuba, founder of Glengariff, said the poll shows wide differences between two factions within the Democratic and Republican parties: Republicans whose primary news source is Fox News and who represented about one-third of the Republican respondents tended to differ from other Republicans, while Democrats younger than 40 and those older than 40 differed significantly on some topics. 

The poll is useful to voters and candidates because it shows that the majority of voters - those who are politically in the middle - agree on many issues, he said.  

Policymakers and politicians would do well to concentrate more on the consensus issues rather than the controversial voters on the margins of each party, Czuba said.

“Leaners -- people who lean Republican or lean Democratic -- and independents that’s the center. That’s where the issues get hashed out in the court of public opinion. Those are the people who can help policy makers understand what’s possible and where these issues can go,” Czuba said.

“It doesn’t mean one side needs to give up on their issues, it says they have more work to do and they need to talk to more people who are not like themselves.”

Other highlights from the poll of Michigan voters:


  • 81 percent strongly support increased federal funding for enhanced security at the border, airports, and ports of entry if it does not include funding for a wall between Mexico and the United States.
  • 77 percent oppose the separation of children from immigrant parents who have come across the border either illegally or to ask for asylum 
  • 54 percent said that undocumented adults who have not committed any major crimes should be given a pathway to citizenship. 
  • 26 percent said that any undocumented adults who came to the U.S. illegally should be deported no matter how long they have been in the country.


  • 93 percent of believe it is important to attain more than a high school education
  • 56 percent support taxpayer-funded, “free” college tuition 


  • Most whites, 56 percent, say blacks are treated unfairly by the criminal justice system, while they were split on whether they are given access to quality education, health care and mortgage and loans.
  • Blacks, in contrast, almost unanimously reported that they believe people of color are treated unfairly on every marker.  

Top issues

  • In response to an open-ended question, 18 percent cited the top issue as border security, while 17 percent said it was Trump and 10.7 percent said it was the economy and jobs.

“Usually, we get the economy, jobs, bad roads. We are in a very unique  moment where there’s a large percentage of the population that sees the president as a significant issue facing the nation ... I don’t recall a single individual being perceived as such a significant issue,” Czuba said. “I’ve been doing this work in Michigan for 36 years.” 

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