A Tale of Two Polls: Michigan Voters on Electric Deregulation

How do Michiganders really feel about electric deregulation? Well, it depends on how you ask the question.

Two recent polls of registered voters in Michigan have provided seemingly opposite conclusions regarding the deregulation of electricity.

A poll conducted by third-party research firm TargetPoint Consulting found that Michigan voters overwhelmingly prefer the stability and reliability of a traditionally regulated electricity market by a 42-point margin: 71 percent favor regulation; 29 percent favor deregulation.

In contrast, a poll released by pro-deregulation interest group Energy Choice Now found that voters support legislation that “would lift the cap and restore competition to Michigan’s electricity market” by an overwhelming margin as well, with 58 percent in support of “electric choice,” and 20 percent opposed.

So which poll is correct? To find the answer, you have to look at how the polls framed the issue for voters.

“Electric Choice” is a Confusing Term

When asked about any kind of “choice,” voters respond positively; however, when asked about electric deregulation–and given more explanation as to its impact on Michigan–they respond negatively.

AMP believes Energy Choice Now’s poll has framed the debate in a misleading way. As former Michigan Senate Majority Leader Ken Sikkema explained in AMP’s tele-town hall last week, electric choice isn’t like other kinds of consumer products.

“You might not go to the department store every day,” he explained, “but you need electricity every day.” Most states with deregulated systems have experienced significant problems maintaining a reliable supply of energy, and prices for their consumers have been volatile.

Deregulating Electricity is Not Important to Most Voters

Now let’s consider the other major finding of the TargetPoint poll: only two percent of respondents thought “reforming the way our electric utilities are regulated” should command priority attention from the legislature. In comparison, 22 percent of respondents ranked “improving roads and highways” as a critical issue for the legislature, followed by “holding the line on state taxes and spending” (19 percent); “making health care more affordable” (13 percent); and, “fixing the economic problems in Detroit” (13 percent).

There clearly isn’t a groundswell of support for deregulating electricity in Michigan, despite what some proponents would have you believe).

While voters may not be focused on the issue now, they’ll certainly be outraged if they–like many consumers in other states–see their electric bills increase dramatically or see their power supply interrupted if legislators move forward with deregulating our electricity market. As AMP has cautioned before, it will be better to learn from the experiences of other states than to find out ourselves the hard way that electric deregulation doesn’t work.

AMP Members Can Make a Difference

The real takeaway from these two polls is that voters need to better understand the risks of electric deregulation. When they do, they overwhelmingly oppose it. With Michigan’s economy finally recovering, we can’t afford a gamble on electric deregulation–no matter what lawmakers call it.

We hope you will join us to tell our legislators that electric deregulation is a bad idea.