By JON GASKELL
Capital News Service
LANSING — New polling suggests Democrats have a shot at retaking the House in November.
The poll by North Carolina’s Public Policy Polling (PPP) shows Michigan voters prefer Democratic candidates by a 14-point margin, 48-34 percent.
Republicans now hold a 63-46 majority in the House, with one vacancy. All seats are up for election in November.
The survey of 560 voters, performed from Feb. 10-12, showed Republicans in the Legislature are viewed unfavorably by 63 percent and favorably by 20 percent. Democrats at the Capitol are also viewed unfavorably, with a 36 percent approval and 46 percent disapproval rate.
The survey found Democrats with an eight-point edge among independents and a 14-point lead with women.
The poll did not ask about any specific contests in the 110 House districts. Instead, it asked voters what party they would vote for, if the election were held today.
Tom Jensen, director of Public Policy Polling, said the results mean that if the election took place now, Democrats would easily retake the House.
“What the poll shows is that Michigan Democrats are more enthusiastic right now and Democrats are improving with their base,” Jensen said. “The numbers should tighten up when Republicans settle on their presidential nominee and independents become more friendly to the GOP.”
But House Republican press secretary Ari Adler questioned PPP’s findings.
“We don’t put much stock into these kind of polls,” Adler said. “They don’t take into account how people feel about their individual legislators. We think that people will look at our legislators’ record and be pleased.
“This is a Democratic poll with Democratic poll results. They find what they are paid to find,” Adler said.
Jensen said the poll was not commissioned by any party and that PPP’s results have been confirmed by other polls showing big leads in Michigan for President Barack Obama and U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing.
Craig Ruff, who directed polling at Public Sector Consultants, a Lansing consulting firm, for years, said the poll is a strong indicator of Democratic momentum.
“Generic party preference polls are used nationally and work pretty well,” Ruff said. “I would be shell-shocked to see a lead of more than five in this kind of poll.”
Though he said the poll results are good news for Democrats, Ruff said it’s too early to make predictions.
“This far out, it’s like going to a tarot card reader — it’s more prophecy than prediction,” Ruff said.
Two months prior to the 2010 election, PPP found Republicans had a seven-point edge in House polling.
Jensen said voter sentiment hinted at a landslide election, and House Republicans went from a 67-43 minority to a 64-46 majority.
Republicans also increased their Senate majority by four seats.
“That year, our polls showed Republicans leading the generic ballot question by seven points,” Jensen said. “If the numbers for Democrats this year hold up, it could be an even bigger swing.”
However, Adler said Michigan’s political landscape has changed too much for another landslide election year.
“All politics is local,” Adler said. “What you saw in 2010, folks at the grassroots level who were never interested in politics getting involved, those voters are here to stay and they are going to come out for Republicans again.”
© 2012, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Nonmembers cannot reproduce CNS articles without written permission.
By JON GASKELL