Poll: Peters leads James for Senate seat, but race tightens

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FILE – In this combination of 2018 and 2019 file photos are, from left, Democratic U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., and Republican U.S. Senate candidate John James. James raised more than $3 million in the last quarter, at least $500,000 more than Peters. A group launched a 2020 ballot initiative Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2020, to expand Michigan’s civil rights law to include anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people, a step that would put the issue to voters if the Republican-led Legislature does not pass the measure. (AP Photos, File)

With less than 50 days to go before the November election, a new poll shows Senator Gary Peters leading John James for Michigan’s U.S. Senate seat – but the lead is smaller than it was since the previous poll.

The survey of 600 Michigan voters shows the incumbent Democrat with 45% of those asked to the Republican challenger’s 41%. The 4% difference is also the poll’s margin of error. The poll was conducted by the Lansing-based firm EPIC MRA.

The poll suggests James hasn’t made much headway since the previous poll: his support was at 40% and he only gained a point. The shrinking margin is more a function of Peters’ number, which was at 50%, but has dropped 5 points.

Five percent of those in this most recent poll said they planned to support a third party candidate. Another 9% said they were undecided or refused to say who they planned to vote for.

Senator Gary Peters

The poll suggests Michiganders are evenly split when asked how Peters, who is coming up to the end of his first term, is doing on the job. The survey shows 45% game him a positive rating, while 44% gave him a negative one.

Still, Peters appears to be better liked than James, a Detroit area businessman who ran against Senator Debbie Stabenow in 2018.

The poll shows Peters with a favorable rating of 48% and an unfavorable rating of 33% – a 15 point spread.

James as a slightly lower favorable rating (43%) and a slightly higher unfavorable rating (38%).

John James
Republican Senate candidate John James

The Michigan seat is important as control of the U.S. Senate is at stake. Right now, Republicans control the upper house. Democrats would have to pick up at least three seats if Biden were to win the White House (where his vice president would cast the tie-breaking vote).

While most political observers put the Great Lakes State in the “leans Democratic” column, they also say it’s one of the GOP’s best opportunities to pick up a state currently held by Democrats.

Michigan is also a presidential battleground state, since President Donald Trump won the state by less than 11,000 votes in 2016.

Despite a barrage of television commercials by both sides (and the fact that one of the candidates has already been a senator for several years), one in ten voters (10% for Peters, 11% for James) say they don’t recognize either candidate’s name.

The poll is a snapshot of voters’ attitudes with less than 50 days before Election Day.

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