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Michigan Radio/PSC poll on hot topics in 2015

Dec 9, 2015

As 2015 winds down, it seems like a good time to see what Michigan voters think about a variety of issues that made headlines over this year.

Michigan Radio and Public Sector Consultants explored voter opinions on topics ranging from drinking water safety to concealed pistols to making the Legislature more effective and lots more.

Here are the topline results from the topics we explored:

Water Safety

Ninety-one percent of respondents agree that the State of Michigan should examine the water systems in densely populated areas for signs of failing infrastructure. The vast majority (84%) also feel that water should be tested in Michigan’s K–12 school buildings at least once a year.

About half of respondents (46%) are concerned about the safety of their water, but there are clear differences by subgroups:

From the Public Sector Consultants/Michigan Radio poll.
Credit Paula Friedrich / Michigan Radio

  • African-American voters (71%) are more concerned than white voters (40%).
  • Democrats (52%) are more concerned than Republicans (36%).
  • Wayne County respondents (61%) have higher concerns than those in other parts of the state, with 81% of voters in Detroit expressing concern about the safety of their water.

Concealed Pistols and Prison Reform

With the recent coverage of high-profile shootings on college and K–12 school campuses, allowing concealed pistols in these places has become a major topic for the upcoming presidential election. Under state law, those licensed to carry concealed pistols still cannot carry their weapons at schools; at daycare centers, sports arenas or stadiums; at entertainment facilities that seat 2,500 or more; at bars, churches, hospitals, casinos and dormitories or classrooms of colleges or universities.

From the Public Sector Consultants/Michigan Radio poll.
Credit Paula Friedrich / Michigan Radio

  About half (46%) support lifting the ban in some or all of these places, while (49%) oppose that.

  • Of the Republicans polled, 65% support lifting the ban in some or all of these places, compared to Democrats, at 33%.

Less than half (40%) support lifting the ban in daycare centers, K–12 schools and college dormitories and classrooms, with a little over half (55%) opposed.

  • Almost half of all men polled (47%) and almost two-thirds of Republicans polled (62%) support lifting the ban; while women (34%), Democrats (27%) and Independents (34%) oppose doing so.

Slightly more than half of Michigan voters (53%) support presumptive parole, legislation recently passed by the Michigan House, which automatically paroles low-risk felons after they serve their minimum sentence.

  • African-Americans (74%) and Democrats (67%) are more supportive than whites (49%) and Republicans (40%).

Finally, we asked voters if they think offenders who were convicted of violent crimes under the age of 18 should be eligible for parole. The jury is clearly still out on this issue, with opinion split between yes (41%) and no (39%), with nearly a quarter (20%) saying they don’t know or are unsure.

Robot Cars!

Autonomous vehicles are currently being developed in Michigan, and some (like the Google Self-Driving Car) are already being road tested in other states. We wondered if people were comfortable with the idea of robots driving cars on Michigan’s roads, and more to the point, if people thought they would make our roads safer.

  • From the Public Sector Consultants/Michigan Radio poll.
    Credit Paula Friedrich / Michigan Radio
      A solid majority (68%) are not comfortable with the idea of having driverless cars on Michigan’s roads, with half (51%) saying they were very uncomfortable.
  • A little more than half (56%) feel that driverless cars would be more dangerous than the humans currently driving on Michigan’s roads.

Despite this opposition, voters accept that this will be how people get around in the near future. Most respondents (57%) think that driverless cars will be common in Michigan sometime in the ten to 20 years from now (31%) or five to ten years from now (27%). That buys humanity at least a few years to figure out how to prevent the cyborg invasion that is sure to follow.

Legislative Reform

From the Public Sector Consultants/Michigan Radio poll.
Credit Paula Friedrich / Michigan Radio

  In a previous PSC poll after the failure of Proposal 1, road funding was identified as a critical priority, with voters saying the Legislature should work over the summer to resolve the issue. While the poll did not specifically address the merits of the $1.2 billion package recently signed by Gov. Rick Snyder, voters clearly do not approve of the way this issue was handled, with the vast majority rating the Legislature as bad (21%) or terrible (58%).

We followed this question with a couple of options on how to improve the effectiveness of the Michigan Legislature. All of the ideas appear to have similar appeal, which seems to indicate that voters are ready for a change — even if they don’t know exactly what the change should look like:

  • Stricter campaign finance and/or ethics laws (25%)
  • Switch to a part-time legislature  (21%)
  • Do nothing because legislators can always be voted out of office if they are doing a poor job (21%)
  • Change the length of term limits by allowing members to serve up to 12 years in either chamber (18%)
  • Don’t know/unsure (16%)