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Support for Trump in Michigan dips, creating crunch for GOP, poll finds

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LANSING, Mich. — Only 31% of likely Michigan voters now say they have favorable views of former President Donald Trump, nearly a year after he left office, but Republicans continue to heavily support him, according to a Detroit News-WDIV poll.

The numbers reveal the crossroads facing GOP candidates in the battleground state, where Trump’s endorsement could help in the August primary election but cause problems in the November general election.

Republicans who focus too heavily on Trump will create risks for themselves based on the survey’s results, said Richard Czuba, founder of the Lansing-based Glengariff Group, which conducted the poll.

“Independents are going to flat out turn against them,” Czuba said of candidates tying themselves too closely to Trump.

Trump, who campaigned heavily in Michigan before the 2020 election, lost the state to Democrat Joe Biden by 3 percentage points or 154,000 votes, 51%-48%. In October 2020, the last time a Detroit News poll questioned likely voters on their thoughts about Trump, 40% said they had a favorable view of him.

Now, 31%, a 9-percentage-point drop, say they had favorable views of the ex-president, according to the poll that was conducted Jan. 3-7. The survey involved 600 likely Michigan general election voters and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

The numbers came after the former president attempted to undermine Michigan’s November 2020 election with unproven claims of widespread fraud and after his supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

The last time Trump’s favorable rating was as low as it now in a News poll was in August 2016, as the GOP was working to unify behind him in his race against Democrat Hillary Clinton. At that point, 28% of likely Michigan voters had a favorable view of him.

In the new survey, 56% of likely Michigan voters overall said they have unfavorable views of Trump. And 12% say they have no opinion.

Among those who identified themselves as “independent” voters, 20% have favorable views of Trump, and 56% have unfavorable views. Biden’s favorability rating is 15 points higher than Trump’s among independents.

But Trump’s favorability rating doesn’t mean he will lack influence with voters who have abandoned Biden out of frustration over inflation, supply chain issues and his administration’s handling of COVID-19, said John Sellek, founder and CEO of the Michigan political consulting firm Harbor Strategic Public Affairs.

“They may not want to vote for him, but he retains the ability to be a voice of their frustrations, even if they are afloat at sea on a partisan basis,” Sellek said.

With self-described “lean Republican” voters, 38% have favorable opinions of Trump and 40% have unfavorable opinions. But the trend shifts significantly with “strong Republican” voters. Among that group, 79% have favorable views of Trump, according to the poll.

Robin Choals, who identified herself as a conservative voter from Kent County, said she supports some of Trump’s policies but believes he’s “rude and arrogant.”

“I’d like someone to have his plans without his attitude,” Choals said, explaining her unfavorable opinion of the former president.

Choals said she wants to see more discussion of topics, like COVID-19’s impact on the economy and immigration, instead of a focus on personalities, like Trump and Biden

Trump has not said yet whether he’ll run for president again in 2024. However, he’s endorsed 14 candidates in Michigan who could be on state ballots this year, including lawyer Matt DePerno of Kalamazoo for attorney general and Republican state committee member Kristina Karamo of Oak Park for secretary of state.

The former president has issued statements in support of eight candidates running for the state House, including Rep. Matt Maddock, R-Milford, who hopes to be the next GOP leader in the chamber.

In an interview last week, Rep. Matt Hall, R-Marshall, who’s also seeking the House GOP leader job, noted Trump remains popular among Republican primary voters.

“People need to understand this is going to be a factor in these races because of the standing President Trump has with Republican voters,” Hall said.

Both DePerno and Karamo will seek endorsements from Michigan Republican delegates at a convention in April. Trump is also supporting GOP primary challengers to U.S. Reps. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, and Peter Meijer, R-Grand Rapids Township, two lawmakers who voted to impeach him last year.

Meijer will seek reelection in one of the swing congressional districts that Democrats will also try to win in November.

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