It's All in How You Ask the Question

Three polls on Detroit bailout, three outcomes

The Michigan Legislature is currently debating whether or not to send extra state money to Detroit. There have been three polls taken on this issue with fairly different results.

Lambert, Edwards & Associates/Denno found very high support, depending on how the money will be spent. I cannot find the exact language of how the question was asked, but this was in the press release:

Sixty-one percent of the 600 likely voters polled statewide said they backed Snyder’s proposal to offer the funds so that Detroit pension cuts wouldn’t exceed 34 percent. A quarter of those polled opposed the move, while nearly 14 percent were undecided.

The same LE&A/Denno Research poll asked voters if they would support offering the state funds as part of a deal that would protect the DIA from having to sell any of its art collection. Slightly fewer voters backed that plan, with 53 percent favoring spending the money and 30 percent opposing it. Seventeen percent were undecided.

Marketing Research Group showed 51 percent support, 37 percent opposed by asking:

"Would you support or oppose the State of Michigan using $350 million dollars of tobacco settlement money over the next 20 years to help the City of Detroit meet its pension contract agreements and prevent the city from having to sell any of its Detroit Institute of Arts paintings and artwork collection?”

The Mackinac Center commissioned a poll through Mitchell Research and found 44 percent support to 49 percent opposed. Here’s how the question was asked:

Governor Snyder has proposed, and the Legislature is considering, passing a $350 million partial bailout of Detroit — paid over 20 years — using state money. Do you support or oppose using state money to bail out the City of Detroit?

We believe that to be the easiest and fairest way to ask the question. Tobacco settlement money is completely fungible as state dollars — that is, it can be used for anything. So make no mistake, the money is coming from the state budget.

But the big dispute is whether or not this money is a “bailout.” Well, here is the definition of the word: “An act of giving financial assistance to a failing business or economy to save it from collapse.”

These are the poll results. You decide which is most meaningful.