News Story

Love it or Hate it, Voters are Aware of Proposal 1

Poll suggests substantial turnout on May 5

If either side in the battle over the Proposal 1 sale tax increase on the May 5 ballot is hoping for an unusually low voter turnout they're likely to be disappointed. A poll commissioned by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy shows that the number of Michigan voters aware of and planning to vote on the measure is substantial.

“It’s clear that a lot of people are interested in the upcoming election, and very few of those who are interested have made a conscious decision not to participate,” said Mark Grebner, president of Practical Political Consulting, which conducted the poll. “I've previously stated that I expect about 1.8 million voters in May. That number might prove optimistic, but I think these results are broadly consistent with a turnout in the range of 1.2 to 2.0 million.”

In addition, the poll results suggest that a high percentage of those planning to vote in the election have already decided whether they’ll vote “yes” or “no.”

Of those who responded to the poll question, 79 percent said they had already made up their minds, 16 percent were continuing to gather information, and only 5 percent said they didn't intend to vote.

The poll, conducted April 1, 2, and 4, consisted of robocalls placed to the landline phone numbers of 4,000 likely voters. Those voters were randomly selected from the 2.5 million registered voters with the strongest history of voting in elections held at times other than Novembers of even-numbered years. The number of people who responded to the question was 343, or 8.6 percent of those called.

“That response rate is somewhat higher than we saw in October 2014, just before the November election, and suggests that people are fairly interested in the upcoming May election,” Grebner said. “However, when comparing the percentage of respondents in the two polls it is important to note that the number of respondents in the October 2014 poll was probably somewhat suppressed by burnout caused by political oversaturation experienced just prior to the gubernatorial election.”

Grebner said that response rates for political polls have dropped from over 50 percent in the 1960s to single digits. But he added that because the very people who are most likely to answer polls are also the most likely to vote in elections such as the one on May 5, landline-only polling, when interpreted properly, continues to produce reasonably accurate results.

“No one should expect the turnout on May 5 to equal the 3.189 million that turned out in the gubernatorial election,” Grebner said. “But we can say that a month out from the day of the election, the average voter had something to say about this issue. That indicates that there will likely be a pretty decent turnout.”

Those who responded to the calls were asked the following:

“On May 5th there will be a vote to raise the sales tax, among other things, with the money going mainly to fix the roads.

Press 1 if you already know how you’ll vote.

Press 2 if you’re still gathering information.

Press 3 if you don’t plan to vote."

Grebner said that before drawing his conclusions, he made adjustments for the poll’s natural bias toward the more politically engaged and for the advanced average age of those with landlines.

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.