Poll: Voters favor EM law; bridge bid falters

Survey reveals support for worker rights initiative

By Chad Livengood / Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Lansing — If the election were held today, Michigan’s emergency manager law would survive a referendum and voters would narrowly reject the Ambassador Bridge owner’s bid to require statewide votes for new bridges and tunnels to Canada, a Detroit News/WDIV-Channel 4 poll shows.

Likely voters surveyed statewide would uphold the 2011 law giving state-appointed managers broad powers to suspend union contracts by a margin of 53 percent to 33 percent.

The poll found 42.5 percent support versus 45 percent opposed to a constitutional amendment requiring voter approval for new government bridges — signaling the potential failure of the proposal pushed by Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel “Matty” Moroun. The results boost Gov. Rick Snyder’s plan for a new Canadian-financed Detroit-to-Windsor crossing. Another 12.3 percent were undecided.

“For this proposal to be at 42.5 percent support clearly shows voters are rejecting this out of hand,” pollster Richard Czuba said.

A labor union-financed proposal to guarantee collective bargaining rights in the constitution and thwart legislative efforts to limit union power in the workplace has 55.2 percent support, with 36.2 percent opposed and 8.3 percent undecided.

As opposition groups pursue legal challenges against four of the seven ballot questions voters could face this fall, two initiatives enjoy more than 60 percent support — a proposal to require super legislative majorities to raise taxes (68 percent) and home health care worker regulations (62.3 percent). A 60 percent support threshold gives campaigns a cushion heading into the fall as voters tend to vote “no” when they don’t understand an issue, Czuba said.

The poll of 600 likely voters in a live-operator telephone survey was conducted Saturday through Monday by Glengariff Group Inc., and has a margin of error is +/- 4 percentage points. The poll was commissioned by The News, WDIV Local 4 and WZZM.

Here’s a look at the ballot initiatives and what survey respondents said about them:

EM referendum

The voter-initiated referendum on Snyder’s beefed-up emergency manager law, which was fought all the way to the Michigan Supreme Court, is getting strongest support in Oakland and Macomb counties at 69.3 percent and 64 percent.

In Detroit, 52.5 percent of residents want to repeal the law. Czuba said 30 percent of Detroiters want to keep emergency managers and shouldn’t be discounted.

“I would have thought it would have been lower based on … what we hear coming from leaders in the city of Detroit,” Czuba said. “There is a strong minority of voters in the city of Detroit that support a financial manager law.”

Opposition to the law has been the focus of attention in Benton Harbor, Ecorse and Pontiac and school districts in Detroit, Highland Park and Muskegon Heights — where emergency managers have been in charge. The group seeking repeal of the law has to educate voters on the “drastic” nature of Public Act 4, said Ray Holman, legislative liaison for UAW Local 6000.

“It could come to your school district, too,” Holman said. “We just need to do a better job explaining that to people.”

But some voters have their minds made up that the law is needed to prevent cities and school districts with chronic budget problems from falling into bankruptcy.

“They’ve been given several chances and it hasn’t worked for them, so somebody else needs to step in,” said Kristin Wolf, 40, of Sterling Heights.

Others said Lansing should stay out of local affairs. “My feelings are they got themselves into it; let them get themselves out of it,” said Everett Phelps, 61, of White Lake.

New bridge

With 74 days until the Nov. 6 election, Moroun’s The People Should Decide faces a skeptical electorate who appear to “see right through” his financial motivations to stop a new competing bridge, Czuba said.

The margin between voters who support and oppose the initiative is within the poll’s margin of error.

Ed Kritch, 56, said he thinks major infrastructure projects should be decided by the Legislature, where a new bridge project backed by Snyder failed last year.

“I don’t feel that there are enough intelligent (voters) with regard to the issue that would understand the benefits and the pros and cons of it,” said Kritch, a sales manager from Northville.

During the past two years, Moroun has poured at least $14 million into TV ads and a signature-gathering campaign fighting Snyder’s bridge plan.

“This ballot proposal has gotten so much exposure and people realize this is the Moroun family trying to buy their way into the constitution,” said Tom Shields, spokesman for Taxpayers Against Monopolies.

The Moroun camp acknowledges voters may be confused that a “no” vote would not be a vote against a new bridge.

“But the more Michigan voters learn the facts and understand that a ‘yes’ gives the decision to the people, the more they want to make sure they have a say in how public money is spent on international crossings,” said Mickey Blashfield, spokesman for The People Should Decide.

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