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Contact: Selma Tucker, Director of Marketing and Communications
Public Sector Consultants
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Split over guns and prison reform, voters unite over water quality

LANSING, Mich. – In the wake of the Flint water crisis, how concerned are voters about the safety of the water in their home? Enough to agree with each other, according to the latest Michigan’s Pulse poll, a partnership of Public Sector Consultants and Michigan Radio.

From November 3 to November 5, 2015, Denno Research surveyed 600 likely voters on a range of topics, including water quality, concealed pistols, prison reform and autonomous vehicles. Beyond increased attention to urban water quality, these highly politicized topics yielded little agreement, with stark differences by political affiliation, race and age.

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 percent) also feel that water should be tested in Michigan’s K – 12 school buildings at least once a year.

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

  • African‐​American voters (71 percent) are more concerned than white voters (40 percent).
  • Democrats (52 percent) are more concerned than Republicans (36 percent).
  • Wayne County respondents (61 percent) have higher concerns than those in other parts of the state, with 81 percent 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 day care 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.

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

  • Of the Republicans polled, 65 percent support lifting the ban in some or all of these places, compared to Democrats, at 33 percent.
  • Less than half of respondents (40 percent) support lifting the ban in day care centers, K – 12 schools and college dormitories and classrooms, with a little over half (55 percent) opposed.
  • Almost half of all men polled (47 percent) and almost two‐​thirds of Republicans polled (62 percent) support lifting the ban; while women (34 percent), Democrats (27 percent) and Independents (34 percent) oppose doing so.
  • Slightly more than half of Michigan voters (53 percent) support presumptive parole, legislation recently passed by the Michigan House that automatically paroles low‐​risk felons after they serve their minimum sentence.
  • African‐​Americans (74 percent) and Democrats (67 percent) are more supportive than whites (49 percent) and Republicans (40 percent).

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 percent) and no (39 percent), with nearly a quarter (20 percent) 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.

  • A solid majority (68 percent) are not comfortable with the idea of having driverless cars on Michigan’s roads, with half (51 percent) saying they were very uncomfortable.
  • A little more than half of voters (56 percent) 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 percent) think that driverless cars will be common in Michigan sometime in the next five to 20 years. That buys humanity at least a few years to figure out how to prevent the cyborg invasion that is sure to follow.

Legislative Reform

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 percent) or terrible (58 percent).

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 percent)
  • Switch to a part‐​time legislature (21 percent)
  • Do nothing because legislators can always be voted out of office if they are doing a poor job (21 percent)
  • Change the length of term limits by allowing members to serve up to 12 years in either chamber (18 percent)
  • Don’t know/​unsure (15 percent)

Goodbye Halloween

On the heels of the Halloween season, we wondered what had scared voters the most so far in 2015. While a quarter (25 percent) were not willing to express their fears out loud, those that did were scared most by the presidential debates (42 percent), followed by the Detroit Lions (22 percent).

About the survey

Michigan Radio, an NPR News Station and the state’s most listened‐​to public radio service, and Public Sector Consultants (PSC), the state’s premier nonpartisan think tank, are partnering on a yearlong initiative studying Michiganders’ attitudes toward policy issues affecting their lives in a series called Michigan’s Pulse. Michigan’s Pulse will release quarterly in weeklong segments on Michigan Radio’s Stateside with Cynthia Canty with in‐​depth analysis by PSC researchers and other thought leaders.

The Michigan Radio/​PSC survey of the Michigan electorate was conducted by Lansing‐​based Denno Research. Six‐​hundred respondents, 450 by landline and 150 by cell phone, in the state of Michigan were surveyed from Novebmer 3 to 5, 2015, with a margin of error of plus/​minus 4 percent. A screen was employed to include only those participants who said they would vote, either at the polls or by absentee ballot, in the November 2016 general election.

Full survey results are available here.

Public Sector Consultants is Michigan’s most respected, connected, and dedicated research and program management firm, with specialties in governance and regulation, health care, education, energy, and environmental policy. PSC is committed to providing objective research and sound solutions to the public and private sector.

Michigan Radio is an NPR News Station, and the state’s most listened‐​to public radio service, attracting more than 500,000 listeners each week across Michigan. Licensed to the University of Michigan, Michigan Radio broadcasts at 91.7 FM in southeastern Michigan, 91.1 FM in Flint, and 104.1 FM in western Michigan, and is available online at michiganradio​.org.

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