POLL: Right to Work, divisive and risky? Michigan voters cautious

(WXYZ) - For the first time since taking office, Governor Rick Snyder now says that right-to-work legislation "is on the agenda."  But a brand new EPIC MRA poll released first to WXYZ and the Detroit Free Press suggests the issue will be extremely divisive and politically risky! 

Lansing polling expert Bernie Porn says, "If Governor Snyder and the Michigan Legislature attempt to pass right-to-work legislation, they will be walking on dangerous ground.  Demographically, it is a no-win situation for proponents of a right-to-work law.  They are playing with fire in a lame duck session."

According to the survey of 600 likely Michigan voters, 50 percent want lawmakers to concentrate on bills that would help create jobs and 21 percent hope their elected officials "pass only necessary bills" and stay away from "controversial" issues since many legislators won't be returning to Lansing in January. 

Only 6 percent of the respondents want bills passed in the lame duck session that would make Michigan the 24 th state to prohibit employers and unions from requiring workers to pay union dues to hold onto their jobs.  When legislators do begin the next session, 78 percent want creating jobs and improving education to be the top legislative priorities.

Generally speaking, a narrow majority of Michigan residents support right-to-work laws, 54 percent to 40 percent with 6 percent undecided.  But when asked specifically about adopting such laws in the Great Lakes State, voters are split on this issue.  Forty-seven percent favor it, 46 percent oppose it, and 7 percent can't make up their minds about it.   Along political party lines, the largest group supporting right-to-work in this state is Republican women at 68 percent.  The largest group rejecting it is Democratic women at 63 percent.  And when the people taking the survey were given detailed pro and con arguments about right-to-work, the polling results flip flopped, 51 percent oppose the legislation and 42 percent support it.  

The EPIC MRA survey also shows that the right-to-work concept has been losing ground in Michigan over the past few years.  In June of 2007, 59 percent supported putting the issue on a statewide ballot, 30 percent opposed it.   That compares to 55 percent who supported it in the same year and month when given detailed information about right-to-work.  Twenty-nine percent opposed it.

But the poll's greatest warning seems to be reserved for Governor Snyder.  For two years he has been saying right-to-work isn't on his agenda.  When voters were asked if they would hold it against the Governor if he signed a right-to-work bill, 40 percent said they would be "less likely" to vote for his re-election in 2014, only 24 percent said they would be "more likely" to vote for him.  Governor Snyder currently has a 51 percent "positive" job approval rating.

The poll was conducted November 27 – 29 and has a margin of error of +/- 4.0 percent.

Overall, how would you rate the job Rick Snyder has done as Michigan Governor – would you give him a positive rating of excellent or pretty good, or a negative rating of just fair or poor?

Total Positive – 51%

Total Negative – 48%

Undecided – 1%

How would you rate your personal financial situation these days -- good, bad, or somewhere in the middle?

Total Good - 27%

Total Bad – 17%

Somewhere in the middle – 55%

Undecided – 1%

Narrow majority support for Right to Work laws in general 

Federal law permits states to enact laws to allow employers to hire workers without requiring them to become members of a labor union. Such laws have come to be known as Right to Work laws. Twenty-three states currently have some version of a Right to Work law that permits employees to work without joining a union, or having to pay union dues, even if a union represents other workers at the same place of employment. Based on this brief description, or what you may have heard or read, generally speaking, do you favor or oppose Right to Work laws. [IF FAVOR/OPPOSE, ASK: "Would that be strongly or somewhat?" AND CODE BEST RESPONSE]


Dec '12                                                                      Jun ‘07

37%     Strongly favor                                                   44%

17%     Somewhat favor                                                18%

54%    TOTAL FAVOR                                            62%

  9%     Somewhat oppose                                               7%

31%     Strongly oppose                                                23%

40%    TOTAL OPPOSE                                           30%

  6%     Undecided/Refused                                           8%



But voters split on having a Right to Work law in Michigan 

Michigan is NOT one of the twenty-three states that have a Right to Work law. Under current state law, if a place of employment is covered by a collective bargaining agreement negotiated by a union, employees must either pay union dues or a smaller non-membership fee to pay for negotiation and maintenance of their contract. There may be a proposal taken up in the Republican controlled Legislature which would make Michigan a "Right to Work" state. Based on this description or what you may have heard or read, would you favor or oppose legislation to make Michigan a "Right to Work" state?  [IF FAVOR/OPPOSE, ASK: "Would that be strongly or somewhat?" AND CODE BEST RESPONSE]


Dec '12                                                                     

31%     Strongly favor                                                 

16%     Somewhat favor                                              

47%    TOTAL FAVOR                                           

  7%     Somewhat oppose                     

39%     Strongly oppose                        

46%    TOTAL OPPOSE                   

  7%     Undecided/Refused                  


Previous results of Right to Work questions when tested as ballot questions


May ‘11                                                                     Jun ‘07

51%     Vote YES                                                         53%

  3%     Lean toward YES                                              6%

54%    TOTAL YES VOTE                                      59%

42%     Vote NO                                                           25%

  3%     Lean toward NO                                                5%

45%    TOTAL OPPOSE                                          30%

  1%     Undecided/Refused                                         11%



Statements by supporters and opponents – voters move to a majority opposed

Now I would like to read two statements, one from supporters and one from opponents of the proposal to make Michigan a Right to Work state.   [ROTATE STATEMENTS]

SUPPORTERS of making Michigan a Right to Work state say it is unfair to force employees to give up part of his or her wages to pay for union dues as a condition of employment, or face being fired. They say that much of the waste and corruption that exists in some unions is a direct result of laws that do not give a worker a choice of whether or not to join a union or remain a union member. Supporters say because Michigan is not a Right to Work state, we will see continued job losses and a state economy that remains in trouble. They say adopting a Right to Work law will make the state more competitive for business and jobs and let market forces work in our favor. The defeat of recent union led ballot proposals clearly proves that the public supports making Michigan a Right to Work state.


OPPONENTS of making Michigan a Right to Work state say it's just a clever ploy by corporate special interest groups to attack collective bargaining rights and drive down wages by limiting the voice of workers, which only increases corporate profits Right to Work really only means the right to work for less . Workers in Right to Work states receive much lower wages, and fewer workers have benefits like health care or paid vacations. They say without a strong union presence to influence safety conditions, more workplace deaths and serious injuries occur in Right to Work states. They also say it's unfair to allow workers to benefit from union negotiated wage and health benefits without paying their fair share of what it costs unions to bargain with employers. Union workers raise the standard of living for everyone and encourage non-union businesses to offer comparable wages and benefits – that helps all workers and Michigan's economy.   


After hearing both arguments, let me ask you again… do you favor or oppose legislation to make Michigan a "Right to Work" state?  [IF FAVOR/OPPOSE, ASK: "Would that be strongly or somewhat?" AND CODE BEST RESPONSE]


Dec '12                                                                     

28%     Strongly favor                                                 

14%     Somewhat favor                                              

42%    TOTAL FAVOR                                           

10%     Somewhat oppose                     

41%     Strongly oppose                        

51%    TOTAL OPPOSE                   

  7%     Undecided/Refused                  



Previous results on this question when tested as a ballot question


June ‘07                                                                   

51%     Vote YES                                                        

  4%     Lean toward YES                                           

55%    TOTAL YES VOTE                                     

26%     Vote NO                                                          

  3%     Lean toward NO                                             

29%    TOTAL OPPOSE                                         

16%     Undecided/Refused                                        




If your state legislator votes in favor of legislation to make Michigan a "right to work" state, would you be more likely to vote for that legislator in the next election, less likely to vote for him or her, or, would the vote of your state legislator on this one issue not influence you one way or the other? [IF MORE/LESS LIKELY, ASK: "Would that be much or somewhat (more/less) likely?" AND CODE BEST RESPONSE]  


Dec '12                                                                     

16%     Much more likely to vote for legislator                      

11%     Somewhat more likely to vote for legislator              

27%    TOTAL MORE LIKELY                            

28%     No influence one way or the other                  

11%     Somewhat less likely to vote for legislator

28%     Much less likely to vote for legislator             

39%    TOTAL LESS LIKELY        

  6%     Undecided/Refused                  



 If "right to work" legislation is passed by the Legislature and Governor Snyder decides to sign it, even though he publicly said he opposes a Right to Work law and feels it would be very divisive, will you be more likely to vote for Governor Snyder in the next election, less likely to vote for him, or, would you say his action on this one issue would not influence you one way or the other? [IF MORE/ LESS LIKELY, ASK: "Would that be much or somewhat (more/less) likely?" AND CODE BEST RESPONSE]


Dec '12                                                                     

11%     Much more likely to vote for Snyder                         

13%     Somewhat more likely to vote for Snyder                 

24%    TOTAL MORE LIKELY                            

31%     No influence one way or the other                  

13%     Somewhat less likely to vote for Snyder 

27%     Much less likely to vote for Snyder                

40%    TOTAL LESS LIKELY        

  5%     Undecided/Refused                  



Do you agree or disagree with the following statement? When the Michigan legislature has its next session, it should focus on issues like creating jobs and improving education, and not changing state laws and rules that would impact unions or make further changes to collective bargaining? [IF AGREE/ DISAGREE, ASK: "Would that be strongly or somewhat?" AND CODE BEST RESPONSE]



Strongly agree


Somewhat agree






Somewhat disagree


Strongly disagree







Finally, I would like to ask you a few questions about yourself for statistical purposes.


Could you please tell me in what year you were born? [IF REFUSED, ASK: ‘OK, of the following general age categories, in which one does your age would fall? Please stop me when I get to a category that applies to you.' AND READ 1 TO 4]


[RECORD YEAR HERE                                      AND THEN CODE BELOW]



18 to 34 years --- (1978 to 1994)


35 to 49 ---------- (1963 to 1977)


50 to 64 ---------- (1948 to 1962)


65 and over ------ (1947 or before)




Which of the following racial or ethnic groups best describes you -- White, African American or Black, Hispanic or Latino, Asian, Native American, mixed-race or some other group or race?





African American/Black


Hispanic or Latino (Puerto Rican, Mexican-American etc.)


Native American


Mixed race






Generally speaking, do you consider yourself a Republican or a Democrat?


(IF DEM) Do you consider yourself a strong Democrat or a not very strong Democrat?

(IF INDEP) Do you consider yourself closer to the Republican or Democratic Party?

(IF REP) Do you consider yourself a strong Republican or not a very strong Republican?



Strong Democrat


Not Strong Democrat


Independent-Lean Democrat








Independent-Lean Republican


Not Strong Republican


Strong Republican



Print this article Back to Top