Democrats eye Governor seat in Michigan; US Sen. Debbie Stabenow starts ahead of rivals by 16 points

A new Emerson College poll of Michigan voters finds both the Democrats and Republicans are poised to nominate candidates with the best chances to win the Governorship. On the Democratic side, former state Senate Minority leader Gretchen Whitmer is leading the Democratic primary field with 39%, followed by businessman Shri Thanedar at 17%, and former Detroit health director Abdul El-Sayed at 12%, 31% of voters were undecided (n=282+/-6.4 percentage points. Data was collected July 19-21).

Among Republicans State Attorney General Bill Schuette leads the Primary for Governor with 35%, followed by Lt. Gov. Brian Calley at 13%, Jim Hines at 9% and Patrick Colbeck at 7%. 36% of Republican primary voters are undecided (n=202+/-7.3 percentage points).

In potential general election match-ups, Whitmer leads her top Republican rivals. Whitmer leads Schuette 43% to 36%; Whitmer leads Calley 44% to 33% (n=600 +/-4.3 percentage points).

In the match-up between Whitmer and Schuette, Whitmer captures the female vote 46% to 30%, while Schuette has 42% of the male vote; 40% of the male vote goes to Whitmer. Among very likely voters, Whitmer extends her lead to 48% to 35%. Overall Independents are breaking for Whitmer 40% to 33%. Whitmer’s strength lies in the Detroit/Flint regions of the state, while Schuette leads in the Southwest and Northern regions.

If the Democrats were to nominate another candidate, they would not be as strong as Whitmer in initial general election matchups. Thanedar leads Schuette by 3 points (38% to 35%) and trails Calley by 2 points (38% to 36%). El-Sayed trails Schuette by 5 points (38% to 33%).

In the US Senate race, the Republican primary is a toss-up between former Army Ranger/CEO John James and venture capitalist Sandy Pensler – each at 28% each with 44% undecided.

In potential general election matchups with US Senator Debbie Stabenow, James trails 47% to 29% and Pensler trails 48% to 32%.

President Trump has a 37% approval and 52% disapproval in Michigan. Governor Rick Snyder has a 30% approval and 43% disapproval.

Regarding the question on the ballot that would allow the state to legalize and tax the sale of marijuana for those over 21 years of age, 60% of voters support legalization, 26% are opposed and 14% who are undecided. Those in support of legalization support Whitmer 50% to 33%, while those opposing legalization support Schuette 50% to 28%.

Democrats lead the generic ballot test 50% to 35%.


The Michigan Emerson College poll was conducted July 19-21, 2018 under the Supervision of Assistant Professor Spencer Kimball. The sample consisted of registered voters who said they were more likely to vote than not, n=600, with a Credibility Interval (CI) similar to a poll’s margin of error (MOE) of +/- 4.3 percentage points. The data was weighted by ethnicity, region, party affiliation and education. It is important to remember that subsets carry with them higher margins of error, as the sample size is reduced. The CI for the Democratic Primary, n=282, +/- 6.4 percentage points; Republican Primary, n=202, +/- 7.3 percentage points. Data was collected using both an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system of landlines and an online panel provided by Survey Sampling International, SSI.