Most Michiganders Stand Behind Whitmer’s Plans, Poll Finds

By Kyle Kaminski

September 7, 2023

New polling shows that most Michiganders support Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s legislative agenda for the rest of 2023—including plans for paid family and medical leave, new clean energy standards, expanded health care, and more. 

MICHIGAN—After Gov. Gretchen Whitmer outlined her top priorities for the rest of the year in a recent speech, new polling shows that most Michiganders support her latest plans for Michigan.

Recent statewide polling from several different polling firms released this week shows that the vast majority of Michiganders are on board with several of the latest legislative priorities that Whitmer expects Michigan’s state lawmakers to take action on before the end of the year.

Among the most popular proposals: A new paid family and medical leave program that will offer a chance for workers to take more time off work to be with their families and newborn babies; a 100% clean energy standard; and expanded health care access (with lower costs) statewide.

“Our plans are ambitious, but they are achievable,” Whitmer said during last week’s speech. “Michiganders love our state and we have been through a lot, especially over the last 40 years. We have made strides to reverse those trends by delivering on issues that make a real difference in people’s lives. We have made progress. Our list of accomplishments, our growing, diversifying economy, and our strong financial position prove that what we are doing is working.”

Here’s an overview of Whitmer’s most popular proposals:

Paid Family & Medical Leave

As lawmakers return to Lansing from their summer break this week, Whitmer said that she wants them to pass legislation that would create a new paid family and medical leave program that operates much like the state’s unemployment system and offers the ability for all Michiganders to take time away from work to care for family members or their newborn babies.

And recent polling shows that it’s a wildly popular concept. 

A Data for Progress poll in February found that 79% of Americans support paid family and medical leave—including 72% of Republicans. A Pew Research survey from May found that 99% of Americans said spending time with family is at least “somewhat important” to them. 

A 2015 poll from Denno Research also shows that Michiganders have been in support of paid leave for years—with 86% of Michiganders voicing support for guaranteed paid sick time. 

While some of Michigan’s larger companies (including the state government itself) offer flexible paid leave packages for employees, it can often be unaffordable for the state’s smaller businesses. State officials estimate that nearly 80% of workers in Michigan currently don’t have access to any paid family and medical leave at all—and they deserve better, Whitmer said. 

“No one should have to choose between being there for their family and a paycheck. Paid family and medical leave is a pro-family, pro-small business policy,” she said in last week’s speech.

READ MORE: Senate Bills to Provide Michiganders With Paid Family and Medical Leave

Reproductive Freedom

Last week, Whitmer also called on lawmakers to further protect reproductive rights in Michigan as neighboring states continue to tighten restrictions on abortion care. Voters last year approved a ballot measure that codified abortion rights into the state Constitution, but Whitmer said there’s still more work to be done—namely by repealing laws that still restrict abortion care in Michigan.

The “Reproductive Health Act” aims to repeal several targeted restrictions on abortion providers—otherwise known as TRAP laws—that create unnecessary restrictions on reproductive health care, Whitmer said. Among them: Mandatory 24-hour waiting periods for patients; insurance coverage restrictions; and state licensing requirements that have limited access to reproductive health care across Michigan.

And according to recent polling, most Michiganders support the concept. 

A May 2023 poll from KFF found that 55% of American women between the ages of 18-49 say they or someone they know has made a health care decision due to worries abortion care access. That same poll found 65% of American adults are concerned about abortion access.

Lawmakers also want to use the legislation as a vehicle for expanding insurance coverage for abortion care—namely by enabling Affordable Care Act plans to cover reproductive care without requiring the purchase of a separate insurance rider, often referred to as “rape insurance.”

READ MORE: Reproductive Health Care is a Constitutional Right. But is it Accessible?

Health Care Protections

Last week, Whitmer encouraged lawmakers to pass bills that would proactively protect several key provisions included in the Affordable Care Act, including one that requires insurers to cover preventive services as the federal health law continues to face legal challenges in federal court.

Specifically, Whitmer wants four cost-saving Obamacare measures codified into state law—including protections to prevent those with pre-existing conditions from paying higher costs; allowances to enable children to remain on their parents’ insurance until they’re 26; a ban on annual or lifetime coverage caps; and requirements that insurers cover more health care essentials, like ambulance services, maternity care, mental health treatment, and birth control.

And once again, polling shows that Michiganders are on board with the plan.

A July 2022 poll from EPIC-MRA found that 89% of Michiganders believe it’s more important than ever for insurance to cover mental health care. Another 51% of Michiganders said strengthening coverage for those with pre-existing conditions would do “a lot” to lower costs. A Marist Poll from March also showed that 83% of Americans see basic health care as a right.

Whitmer also called for the creation of an independent, nonpartisan “Prescription Drug Affordability Board” that will be tasked with using “evidence-based research” to drive down the cost of prescription drugs in Michigan. She said the board will also “hold bad actors accountable for irrationally skyrocketing prices” while also working to find new treatments and cures. An AARP survey showed that 55% of Michiganders support the new Drug Affordability Board. 

READ MORE: Poll: Michiganders Want Insurers to Expand Access to Health Care

Tackling Climate Change

Whitmer’s legislative roadmap also focused on the “health of the planet”—and the need for additional legislation to curb climate change and protect natural resources across Michigan. The biggest-ticket item: Moving Michigan to a 100% clean energy standard by 2050.

And to ensure Michigan stays on track, Whitmer called on lawmakers to pass more bills to protect clean air and water, while also creating more jobs and expanding energy production.

In a recent poll from Impact Research commissioned by the Michigan League of Conservation Voters, voters across the political spectrum supported policies to protect Michigan’s air and water—including moving toward a 100% clean energy standard. The poll also showed that nearly 66% of Michiganders agree that climate change is caused, in part, by human activity.

Whitmer called on lawmakers to find new ways to lower utility costs for families—namely by improving energy efficiency and waste reduction programs to drive down costs, as well as helping provide more resources for Michiganders to upgrade their homes and businesses. 

She also claimed the adoption of more environmentally friendly energy production policies in Michigan will create 160,000 jobs and save families about $5.5 billion in household energy costs by 2050—as well as allow the state to capture about $14.7 billion in federal clean energy funds.

A recent Data for Progress poll found that 80% of Michiganders supported increasing investments in homes and businesses to improve their energy efficiency and lower energy bills.

READ MORE: New ‘Power for All’ Bills to Help Michiganders Harness More Solar Energy

For the latest Michigan news, follow The ‘Gander on Twitter.

Follow Political Correspondent Kyle Kaminski here.


  • Kyle Kaminski

    Kyle Kaminski is an award-winning investigative journalist with more than a decade of experience covering news across Michigan. Prior to joining The ‘Gander, Kyle worked as the managing editor at City Pulse in Lansing and as a reporter for the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

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