Street Talk

Street Talk: We don't like anybody and the economy stinks

Road rage.

December 6, 2013
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President Barack Obama’s approval rating in Michigan sagged to its lowest point in three years in the wake of this fall’s sequestration and glitches with the health care reform rollout.

Michigan State University’s fall 2013 State of the State Survey also shows that while Gov. Rick Snyder’s favorable rating picked up, consumer confidence was tepid.

Obama’s approval rating of 38.3 percent was down from 45.2 percent in the spring survey. It’s the Democratic president’s lowest quarterly rating since fall 2010 when it was 32.7 percent, said Charles Ballard, MSU professor of economics and director of the survey.

“The government shutdown and the problems with the Affordable Care Act website appear to have had a negative effect on the president’s ratings,” Ballard said.

The telephone survey of 978 Michigan adults, which has a margin of error of 3.1 percent, was conducted from Aug. 24 to Oct. 27. The government shutdown was Oct. 1-16 and healthcare.gov was launched Oct. 1.

Ballard noted that during the first five weeks of the survey — prior to October — Obama’s approval rating was 41.4 percent. During the last four weeks of the survey, which came after the health reform rollout, it dropped to 34 percent.

Still, Obama’s approval ratings in Michigan have remained relatively stable during the past four years, hovering at about 40 percent. By comparison, Bill Clinton’s approval ratings were below 40 percent in 1995 but rose into the 40s in 1996 and 1997, and into the 50s toward the end of his term.

George W. Bush peaked at 76 percent immediately after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, but his numbers dropped fairly steadily after that. Bush’s lowest approval rating was 13.7 percent in the fall of 2008, in the last survey before he left office.

Gov. Snyder’s approval rating jumped 6.4 percentage points in the fall, to 35.6 percent — his highest since summer 2012 when it was 36.8 percent. With the exception of spring 2013, when Snyder’s favorable rating fell to 29.2 percent, Ballard said the governor’s numbers have been “amazingly steady” during the past two years, remaining in the mid-30s.

“Now that he has been in office for nearly three years, I think Michigan residents have a pretty good idea of what Gov. Snyder is like,” Ballard said. “Some like him more, some like him less but for better or worse, his ratings have not changed in the last couple of years.”

By comparison, Gov. John Engler’s approval ratings were in high 40s and low 50s in the late 1990s. But the recession of 2001 took a toll and Engler’s approval ratings fell to a low of 33.7 percent in fall 2002, in the last survey before he left office. Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s numbers, on the other hand, fell fairly steadily — from a high of 58.1 percent during her first year as governor (2003) to a low of 18 percent in the last survey before she left office in 2010, according to Ballard.

Consumer confidence numbers were mostly flat or slightly down in the fall, suggesting Michigan residents weren’t particularly enthusiastic about their financial situation. Only 49.7 percent of residents rated their current financial situation as excellent or good, the lowest reading in a year, Ballard said.

When asked if they’ll be better or worse off one year from now, 26.1 percent said worse — up from 22.7 percent in the spring. However, 54 percent believe they’ll be better off — a slight increase, and Ballard noted those who believe they’ll be better off still outnumber the “worse-offs” by about 2 to 1.

Ballard said each consumer confidence indicator in the survey was well above the numbers from recession-plagued 2009 but well below the indicators from 1999 when the economy was humming and unemployment was about a third of what it is now.

“We’ve had four consecutive years of fairly steady but unspectacular growth,” Ballard said. “In the first decade of this century, Michigan’s economy slowed from high gear to low gear and then went into reverse. But now we have been moving along fairly steadily in second or third gear for several years.”

Weatherball white

The same station that brought you the iconic Weatherball is going to new heights — or depths — to get up close and personal with West Michigan weather.

WZZM 13 and Jack’s Lawn Service and Snowplowing are teaming up for the region’s first — wait for it — driveway weather report, coming live to a TV near you on mornings when more than two inches of snow have fallen.

The station will broadcast the snow amounts on area residents’ driveways and road conditions as reported by Jack’s fleet of snowplow drivers.

Jack’s, by the way, is the largest residential snow removal company in Kent County, operating a fleet of 23 trucks and tractors from its satellite vehicle tracking and centralized dispatch headquarters.

Bruce Vander Vennen, who runs the family-run business named for his father, said he is proud to provide “this first of its kind partnership and service.”

The plow drivers will gauge snow depths and weather conditions and then report back live to the TV station.

“Who better to partner with than the drivers out there with feet-on-the-ground and a firsthand measurement of the amount of snow fall?” said Janet Mason, WZZM’s president and general manager.

Visionary leader

Grand Rapids Community College faculty and staff are mourning the Nov. 29 death of President Emeritus Richard Calkins, who led unprecedented campus expansion and the college’s transformation as an independent institution.

Calkins became chief executive (a title later changed to president) of what was then Grand Rapids Junior College in 1975.

Students today can see some of the results of Calkins’ leadership from almost anywhere on campus: the Music Center, Ford Fieldhouse, Spectrum Theater, College Park Plaza, Student Community Center and Wisner-Bottrall Applied Technology Center — all of which opened during his 23-year tenure. The Calkins Science Center was later named for him.

“Dick worked tirelessly to move the college forward and increase student-learning opportunities,” said GRCC President Steven Ender. “We will be forever grateful for his vision and tenacity.”

Naughty or nice?

The holidays don’t always bring good cheer.

State Farm and KRC Research conducted an online survey of 1,000 U.S. drivers age 18 and older, and found there’s plenty of room for improvement when it comes to being naughty or nice behind the wheel, according to Angie Rinock, State Farm’s public affairs specialist for media relations in Michigan and Ohio.

According to the survey, nearly two out of three (64 percent) U.S. drivers have experienced an act of aggressive driving from another driver six times or more in the past three months.

“These findings reinforce how important it is to keep safety top of mind when driving every day but especially during heavy travel times like the winter holidays,” said Chris Mullen, director of technology research at State Farm.

“Both negative and positive emotions can affect the way drivers behave, and it's vital to be aware of your state of mind and continually refocus your attention on the road and on practicing safe driving behaviors.”

In case you were wondering, 54 percent of respondents cited men as the more aggressive drivers and only 10 percent gave the nod to women. The rest answered “equally likely.”

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