News Story

Then and now, polling on right-to-work in Michigan shows it is popular

A dozen polls over 20 years, and almost all show broad support for the law

An analysis of a dozen polls over the past 20 years shows that right-to-work is extremely popular in Michigan. Right-to-work laws make it illegal to require workers to pay dues or fees to labor unions when holding a job, even in workplaces covered by union contracts.

Michigan’s right-to-work law was passed in December 2012, but a decade later, it may be in danger. In November 2022, Democrats won the governorship and narrow majorities in the state House and state Senate. Labor unions are pushing hard to repeal the law, which has cost them at least 140,000 members in the past 10 years.

Repealing the law would go against public opinion, which shows wide support for it. That’s the finding of the most recent poll on the issue as well as most of a dozen polls taken over the past 20 years from a variety of Republican and Democratic polling firms and media organizations.

A December 2022 survey commissioned by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy found that voters supported the law overwhelmingly, with 60% in support and only 17% opposed. Even union households support the law by a margin of nearly 2-to-1.

There were four polls on the issue of right-to-work in December 2012, the month it was passed into law. Polls from EPIC/MRA and Mitchell Research, right before the law was passed, found support was at 54%-40% and 51%-41%, respectively.

A poll after the law was passed showed it underwater, with 41% in support and 51% opposed. That poll, from Democratic pollster Public Policy Polling, is the only one showing more people opposing than supporting right-to-work. Another poll at the same time from Michigan State University found that 43% of Michiganders thought the recently passed law would help the economy, and 41% believed it would hurt, and 16% thought it would have no effect.

Polls from earlier in 2012 also showed wide popularity for right-to-work. A March 2012 poll commissioned by the Michigan chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business and another done by the Marketing Resource Group on behalf of Inside Michigan Politics had similar results: 57% support to 35% opposed, and 58% support and 37% opposed, respectively.

In 2011, a poll from EPIC/MRA found 54% of respondents supporting the law and 45% opposed.

For Labor Day in 2010, the Grand Rapids Press commissioned a poll. It found overwhelming support for right-to-work, with 51% backing it and 27% opposing it.

In October 2007, the Windquest Group sponsored a poll showing that 40% of union households supported a right-to-work law.

A poll commissioned by the Detroit Free Press in September 2006 showed 56% of Michiganders supporting the law, including 42% of union households.

A decade before the law went into effect, in June 2002, the firm Research 2000 showed 62% of Michigan voters supporting the law and only 22% opposing it.

Perhaps the most notable measure of how Michigan voters feel about the issue of right-to-work came in November 2012.

Labor unions had collected signatures for a constitutional amendment that would have banned lawmakers from passing a right-to-work law.

Specifically, part of the amendment would established that “No existing or future law of the state or its political subdivisions shall impair, restrict or limit the negotiation and enforcement of any collectively bargained agreement with a public or private employer respecting financial support by employees of their collective bargaining representative according to the terms of that agreement.”

Bob King, then-president of the United Auto Workers, the main union pushing the amendment, specifically said this was done after Gov. Rick Snyder would not commit to vetoing future right-to-work legislation.

The constitutional amendment was voted down by Michigan voters, 58% to 42%. A month later, the right-to-work bill was passed by lawmakers and Snyder signed it into law.

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.