Gary Heinlein, Detroit News, May 16, 2006
LANSING — A statewide ballot proposal to ban affirmative action in college admissions and government jobs may not be the slam dunk that its advocates had hoped.
A new independent poll shows that when voters read the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative as it will appear on the ballot Nov. 7, less than half intend to vote for it. Earlier surveys had pointed to greater support — but that was before the ballot language was finalized.
A “yes” vote supports a ban on affirmative action; a “no” vote supports a continuation of affirmative action.
Support has dropped from 64 percent in January 2004 to 46 percent now, and all because the words “to ban affirmative action programs” have been included in the proposal voters will see, according to pollster Steve Mitchell.
The percentage of undecided voters grew from 14 to 26 percent. The margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points.
The measure’s advocates had proposed ballot language that did not include the words “affirmative action,” but state elections officials added them to the final version of the proposition the board approved earlier this year. The question that Mitchell’s poll takers presented to potential voters in 2004 did not include those words.
“It’s what causes a big drop in support,” Mitchell said. “Under the old language, there’s no doubt it would have passed. Under the new language, it’s uncertain whether it will.”
West Bloomfield resident Brian Cybul, 45, finds it logical that the ballot language would be a factor in declining support for the proposal. He said it’s a tough issue for most Michiganians to decide.
“My inclination is to vote against banning affirmative action,” added Cybul, an accountant. “I don’t think TV advertising should decide these things. I think reasoned debate should decide them.”
Mitchell rates the constitutional amendment’s November prospects at 50-50. Both major political parties, Gov. Jennifer Granholm and challenger Dick DeVos, labor unions and major businesses are against it.
“Opponents are going to spend a lot to defeat it,” Mitchell said. “That means it’s going to be very interesting.”
More men than women favor the amendment. Men support it by a 47-29 percent margin; women 37 percent-26 percent.
Caucasians favor it 44 percent-24 percent; African Americans oppose it 60 percent-17 percent.
It’s favored by Republicans (55 percent-13 percent) and independent voters (46 percent-24 percent, but opposed by Democrats (45 percent-28 percent).