News Story

Right-to-Work Poll Numbers Fit the Pattern

A week after Gov. Rick Snyder signed legislation making Michigan the nation's 24th right-to-work state, some polls show Gov. Snyder's popularity down and the law suddenly unpopular.

However, John Truscott, who was press secretary for former Gov. John Engler 20 years ago, said that pattern has become familiar.

"I wouldn't worry about it," Truscott, also of Lansing-based Truscott Rossman Group, said. "In October of John Engler's first year the polls showed his re-elect number at just 17 percent. If anybody is using these poll results to plan what to do in the next election; I'd say they're making a big mistake."

The principal poll that has some excited right now was done by Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling. The poll was done between Dec. 6 and Dec 10 (the weekend after Gov. Snyder announced he wanted right-to-work legislation delivered to him). It showed Gov. Snyder's approval rating among likely voters at 38 percent with 56 percent disapproving.

In addition, the poll showed that 51 percent of likely voters were opposed to the legislation, with 41 percent supporting it. PPP appears to have used a sample that reflected the turnout in this year's November election in Michigan. It included 38 percent Democrats, 28 percent Republicans and 34 percent Independents.

The pattern of immediate dips in the polls following reforms happened early in Gov. Snyder's term. On March 23, 2011, a PPP poll showed his approval rating had slumped to 33 percent. But by November 2012 (before the right-to-work legislation arose), a PPP poll showed Gov. Snyder's approval rating had risen to 47 percent, 10 points above his disapproval rating.

Regarding right-to-work legislation, the PPP results show a marked contrast with the results of polls released just before Snyder's Dec. 6 announcement. A poll released by Mitchell Communications of East Lansing on Dec. 6, showed an exact reversal of the PPP results. According to the Mitchell poll, 51 percent of likely Michigan voters favored tight-to-work, while 41 percent were opposed to it.

A key difference between the two December polls is that the PPP poll simply asked the sample group the following: Do you support or oppose the right-to-work legislation passed in Michigan this week?

The Mitchell poll described right-to-work. Then, in a follow up question, those who participated heard a battery of questions with arguments used by supporters and opponents of right-to-work laws. After being presented with the mini-debate, support was at 50 percent, with 40 percent opposed.

"On right-to-work, support always goes up when people have it explained to them," Truscott said. "Even a lot of union members will say 'that makes sense' after they understand what it is."

A poll released by Lansing-based EPIC/MRA on Dec.6 might also indicate that the latest PPP poll may reflect a short-term reaction to the immediate news media frenzy over the quick passage of the law.

That poll showed 54 percent of Michigan voters generally favoring right-to-work laws, with 40 percent opposed. When asked in a follow-up question how they felt about Michigan becoming a right-to-work state, 47 percent said they favored it, while 46 percent said they opposed it.

Gov. Snyder's pattern of ups and downs in approval ratings resembles that of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. In March 2011, a Rasmussen poll showed that 60 percent of likely Wisconsin voters disapproved of Walker's performance as governor.

However, after months went by and the dire consequences unions had had predicted about Walker's reforms never materialized, he easily won a recall election. By August, 2012, Gov. Walker's approval rating was 57 percent.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.