LANSING — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer remains a popular leader, but her support has slipped over the last several months in what a pollster believes is a reflection of public frustration over the coronavirus pandemic, nearing its one-year anniversary in Michigan.
In a new poll from EPIC-MRA of Lansing, 52 percent gave Whitmer a positive job approval rating and 47 percent gave her a negative rating. Also, 49 percent said they had a favorable opinion of Whitmer, while 44 percent said they had an unfavorable opinion of her. Another 7 percent were undecided or refused to say.
Whitmer’s numbers have gone down since September, when she received a positive job approval rating of 56 percent of those surveyed. Also in September, Whitmer’s favorability ratings were 56 percent positive to 41 percent negative, with 3 percent undecided or refusing to say.
“She has slipped in terms of her favorability,” said Bernie Porn, president of EPIC-MRA. “Also, it is unusual that job rating is higher than favorability. That all can be related, I think, to frustration with COVID.”
No governor in recent history has had to deal with the type of all-encompassing crisis Whitmer has, and “you still have a majority saying she is doing a good job as governor,” he said.
The poll of 600 likely voters has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. It was conducted by live interviewers between Feb. 19 and 25 and included 50 percent cellphone users.
Bobby Leddy, a spokesman for Whitmer, said the governor has followed the advice of medical and health experts in responding to the pandemic and studies show her actions have saved lives.
“As we make our way out of the pandemic, the governor is committed to working across the aisle with the Legislature to pass the MI COVID Recovery Plan to provide billions of dollars in funding to expand our vaccine program, support small businesses, get children back in the classroom, and grow our economy,” Leddy said.
Whitmer is most popular in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties, where 59 percent said they had a favorable impression of her and 35 percent said they had an unfavorable one. She is least popular in northern Michigan, where 73 percent say they have an unfavorable impression and 27 percent a favorable one.
Among age groups, Whitmer is most popular with young people and elderly people. She got a 55 percent favorable rating among voters between 18 and 34 and a 52 percent favorable rating among those 65 and older. For those ages 35 to 64, only 45 percent rated Whitmer favorably.
Among Black voters, 84 percent of those surveyed had a favorable impression of Whitmer. White voters were pretty evenly split, with 46 percent having a favorable impression of the governor and 47 percent an unfavorable one.
She has a 90 percent favorability rating among Democrats, but only 40 percent among voters who consider themselves Independent. Among Republicans, 87 percent of those surveyed had an unfavorable view of Whitmer.
More than half – 55 percent – said the state of the pandemic has improved over the past couple of months, while 35 percent said it has remained the same and 7 percent said it has gotten worse.
Porn said the view that the pandemic is improving, or going away, could relate to increased frustration over a lack of normalcy in terms of ability to patronize bars and restaurants and participate in sports. He said a recent controversy in New York over Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s handling of coronavirus cases in nursing homes could also be a factor, since Republicans have raised similar concerns about Whitmer’s nursing home policies.
The poll showed Whitmer in a virtual dead heat with former GOP congresswoman and secretary of state Candice Miller, in a theoretical matchup for governor. The poll found 46 percent would support Whitmer and 45 percent would support Miller, while 9 percent were undecided or refused to say.