Most Michigan Republican voters are open to abortion in cases of sexual violence against women and want universal background checks for individuals purchasing firearms.
And many of them said they believe we in the news media are just as much enemies of the United States of America as Vladimir Putin, the Russian dictator who launched an unprovoked war in Ukraine against a US ally.
Those are among the eye-opening takeaways in the July 13-15 statewide poll of 500 likely Republican primary voters that The Detroit News and WDIV (Channel 4) commissioned to take the temperature of today’s Grand Old Party.
The polling by Lansing-based Glengariff Group is a snapshot in time and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.
But what’s most revealing in this poll is where Republican voters stand on key issues well outside of the margin of error.
Here are five takeaways from the polling data:
If you’re a Republican state lawmaker or candidate for the Michigan House and Senate, get out a pen and pad and take notes here.
The assumption that Republican voters oppose abortion in any form is not supported by the polling data.
The News/WDIV poll shows 68% of GOP voters support allowing abortion in cases where women are raped or impregnated by a family member.
When Glengariff Group’s telephone operators asked a more specific follow-up question, “Do you support or oppose allowing abortion in the case of rape or incest of a minor child?,” support for allowing abortion in these cases jumped to 75%.
Just 16% of Republican primary voters said a teenage girl who is raped should have to carry the baby to term, the poll found.
“There’s no ambiguity among Republican primary voters on where they stand on the rape and incest question,” pollster Richard Czuba told The News. “They support an exception.”
Republican support for abortion in cases where terminating a pregnancy saves the life of the mother is even stronger, with 78% supporting and 12% opposed.
Michigan’s 1931 law outlawing abortion, which is currently halted from being enforced by a court order, only provides a narrow exception to preserve the life of the mother. Rape and incest victims won’t have the ability to legally get an abortion in this state if the 91-year-old law goes back into effect.
The survey also showed Republican voters are in step with their Democratic counterparts that the government should keep its hands off contraception.
More than 90% of GOP voters said they support allowing married couples to purchase contraceptives after conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas suggested the high court revisit the 1965 ruling that guaranteed couples the freedom to use birth control without government interference in their bedrooms.
That polling data matched another recent Detroit News-WDIV statewide poll of Democrats, Republicans and independents who are likely to vote in the general election this fall. That poll found 90% support for contraceptives.
Support for universal criminal background checks to purchase a firearm in Michigan is effectively universal among Republican voters at 91%. Strong support for background checks among GOP voters who own guns was 85%.
“Talk about low-hanging policy fruit, when both sides of the aisle — their base voters — can all agree on background checks,” Czuba, CEO of the Glengariff Group, told The News.
The most opposition to background checks for purchasing firearms came among voters ages 18-39 (8% strongly opposed) and voters who identify as “Trump Republicans” (9% strongly opposed).
By a margin of 67% to 24%, Republican voters also overwhelmingly support so-called “red flag laws” where law enforcement agencies can take away guns from individuals believed to be a danger to themselves or others.
But where GOP voters draw the line on gun control is an outright ban of certain weapons.
“Do you support or oppose banning military-style automatic assault weapons like an AR-15?” telephone operators asked respondents.
Nearly 57% of GOP voters said they oppose a ban on automatic assault weapons, with 34% saying they either somewhat or strongly support a ban on these types of long guns.
Who’s America’s enemy?
Question 30 of the survey was straightforward: “Would you say that the media is or is not the enemy of the United States?”
About 66% of likely Republican voters said the news media is the enemy of the US, with fewer than one in five saying journalists aren’t the enemy and 14% saying it depends or they were unsure, according to the poll.
When asked in the next question if Putin is the enemy of the US, 68% said yes. The narrow 2 percentage point margin between the media and Putin being the enemy of the state falls within the poll’s margin of error.
When asked an open-ended question “Who do you believe is the biggest enemy of the United States?,” about 37% said China is America’s biggest enemy.
The next biggest enemy, according to likely GOP primary voters, was President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris (14%), followed by 9% for Democrats and the left wing in general, Putin (5%) and “our own government/ politicians” at 4%.
Just 3% of Republican voters said the news media is America’s biggest enemy, a result that falls within the poll’s margin of error.
The former president looms large in The News-WDIV’s polling of likely Republican voters.
About 74% of GOP voters view Trump favorably, while 13% said they have an unfavorable view of the businessman-turned-politician who is mulling a third campaign for the White House in 2024.
About 64% of Michigan Republican voters surveyed said they want to see Trump run for president again, while 27% are opposed.
But when given the choice of a one-on-one match-up with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, “There were some interesting cracks among college-educated Republicans and voters that say they are primarily fiscal conservatives,” Czuba wrote in his polling analysis.
Trump had a narrow advantage over DeSantis, 45% to 42%, among the GOP voters surveyed.
That falls within the 4.4% margin of error, meaning that 20 months out from a likely Republican presidential primary, Trump’s pathway to victory in Michigan may not be a slam dunk if DeSantis were to challenge Trump without a bus load of other candidates on the ballot like there were in 2016 when Trump won the GOP nomination.
The sharper contrast between Trump and DeSantis lies with college-educated Republican voters.
DeSantis cleaned up in this demographic, garnering 51% support to 37%.
Trump’s favorability in Glengariff Group’s frequent statewide polling is starting to slip, Czuba said.
In May, a statewide survey by Czuba’s firm conducted for the Detroit Regional Chamber found 84% of Republican voters viewed Trump favorably. The News-WDIV poll found favorability for Trump among GOP voters at 76%.
If there’s a place in Michigan politics where Trump’s influence may be strongest, it’s the fast approaching Republican primary for governor on Aug. 2.
The News-WDIV poll found Norton Shores conservative commentator Tudor Dixon has a narrow 4 percentage point lead over Metro Detroit businessman Kevin Rinke that falls within the 4.4 percentage point margin of error.
Ottawa County real estate agent Ryan Kelley and Mattawan chiropractor Garrett Soldano were trailing right behind Rinke, with 38% of likely GOP voters saying they haven’t made up their minds about who should face Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in November.
The race is a true toss-up, Czuba said.
But the one person who could effectively crown a GOP gubernatorial nominee is Trump himself, the poll found.
Among the undecided voters surveyed, 63% said a Trump endorsement would be very or somewhat important in their decision-making at the polls.
As Detroit News Lansing reporter Craig Mauger has reported here, here and here, there’s been an intense behind-the-scenes and, increasingly, very public effort by the candidates to curry favor with Trump for his endorsement.
The ex-president, who has obsessed over his 154,000-vote 2020 loss to Biden in Michigan, has been silent for weeks about the Republican governor’s race here.
“He needs to make his move soon,” Czuba said Saturday. “If he chooses no one, what a damning indictment of all of them. Force them to flirt with you and choose no one.”