Support for the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative is falling. A statewide poll released last week shows the public is now evenly split over the anti-affirmative-action ballot proposal, after previous surveys had found a majority of Michigan voters supported MCRI. The battle against MCRI must be won at the ballot box, and this poll shows that it can be won. The task now for students and other advocates against MCRI is to step up their efforts to ensure this trend of falling support continues through MCRI’s defeat in November.

Sarah Royce

The poll of 600 likely voters conducted by EPIC/MRA found that 47 percent opposed MCRI, while 44 percent supported it. Given the poll’s 4-percent margin of error, the results are not definitive. What is significant, however, is that support for MCRI has dropped 20 points since a previous poll by the same firm in 2004 – while opposition to MCRI has jumped 15 percent just since last December.

Perhaps the poll indicates that Michigan voters are realizing just how far the effects of MCRI’s passage would reach. Besides prohibiting state universities from using affirmative action in admissions, MCRI stands to eliminate scholarship and outreach programs intended to encourage women and minority students to pursue careers in fields where they have previously faced barriers.

Maybe the poll reflects the broad range of prominent voices that have come out against MCRI. Recognition of the harm MCRI would do to efforts to build the educated workforce needed to revitalize the state’s economy has led business groups, including the regional chambers of commerce for Detroit and Grand Rapids, to come out against the initiative. Both Gov. Jennifer Granholm and her likely Republican opponent, Dick DeVos, think MCRI is bad public policy.

Or perhaps voters are simply learning that despite the inclusion of “civil rights” in its name, MCRI will do nothing to remedy the unequal access to quality public schools that has wasted the potential of too many of Michigan’s children for too long.

Whatever has driven the recent drop in support for MCRI, it is clear that those who believed the initiative would simply cruise to victory are mistaken. With Michigan voters in a statistical dead heat over MCRI, the battle for equal opportunity in Michigan is at this point anyone’s fight to win.

With nearly eight months still remaining before the November ballot, however, much of the public discussion over MCRI has yet to unfold. Though these recent poll results are encouraging, they are no cause for complacency. MCRI’s passage would still have the same devastating effects whether its supporters edged out opponents by double digits or by a fraction of a percentage point.

Efforts already underway to educate voters about what MCRI would mean for Michigan will need to be scaled up in coming months. One way for students to get involved is to head to Michigan Student Assembly chambers on the third floor of the Michigan Union, where Students Supporting Affirmative Action will meet at 7 p.m. tonight to educate and organize students eager to fight MCRI. The stakes in this battle are too great for apathy to be an option for students offended by what MCRI would do to our state.

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