A defining trait of Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero is his willingness to share an opinion on, well, just about anything The same with city voters, when asked to say what they think of the mayor. They are willing to share.

A City Pulse survey commissioned to measure the mayor's job performance and likability found a ready and willing audience to grade the mayor. They like him and how he's running the city.

The response rate to questions was unusually robust, said Mark Grebner, founder and president of Practical Political Consulting Inc., a nationally recognized polling firm. “To our surprise we got responses (to our first question) from 1,041 people, a response rate of 14.9 percent — more than double the 7 percent we expected.

“From our experience, such a high response rate suggests that people found our questions unusually interesting and/or easy to answer. That is, city voters had opinions on the topic of Mayor Bernero's performance, and they were quite willing to share them,” he said.

The introductory question asked voters to rate Bernero's job performance, specifically, “What do you think of the job he has done as Mayor of Lansing?”

Of 1,044 responses, 403 (39 percent ) said he has done a good job; 393 (38 percent) a fair job; and 248 (24 percent) rated the mayor's job performance as poor.

The high response rate among all potential voters means the sample has a low margin of error, just plus or minus 3 percent 95 percent of the time. This is a standard way of measuring polling results. The margin of error rate for most opinion polls falls in the 3-to-5 percent range.

The second question asked voters about Bernero's personality, separate from his performance.

There was a slight correlation between very informed voters, those who follow city politics closely, and discomfort with Benero's personality.

“We assumed — probably because of our own acquaintance with him — there would be a substantial number of people who approved of his work, but were nettled by his personality,” Grebner said. “Not many voters said they saw him that way.”

Overall, the survey found that people like Bernero, or at the very least are neutral about him.

We asked this question: “Regardless of the job he has done, how do you feel about him as a person?” Of 1,035 responses, 298 (29 percent) said they liked Bernero personally; 517 (38 percent) said they didn't have a strong feeling either way; and 220 (21 percent) said they disliked him personally. As with the first question, the margin of error was 3 percent.

“If a voter thinks Bernero is doing a good job as mayor, they probably like him personally, while people who think he's doing poorly dislike him,” Grebner said, comparing the responses to the two questions.

There is some indication that voters feel more strongly about Bernero's personality than his job performance. Only 229 (about 80 percent) of the 298 voters who personally like Bernero graded his performance as good. And at the other end of the spectrum, of the 220 voters who said they disliked Bernero personally, only about half (115 respondents) graded his job performance as poor.

Based on responses to the survey, Bernero received his highest job performance rating from voters in the city's Fourth Ward, essentially the northwest quadrant. Of the 345 voters polled, 41 percent rated his job performance as good. Voters were least enthusiastic in the Second Ward, the city's southeast neighborhoods, where just 33 percent of those surveyed rated the performance as good; in the First Ward, the city's northeast, it was 37 percent good and in the Third Ward, the southwest, 36 percent good.

Responses grading the mayor's job performance as poor were grouped more closely than the good responses: 24 percent in the First Ward, 22 percent in the Second Ward, 21 percent in the Third Ward and 23 percent in the Fourth Ward.

Survey results also reflected the party divide in Lansing, such as it is.

“The attitude toward Bernero doesn't strictly follow partisan lines, but it's apparent that his opposition arises primarily from the minority of non-Democrats,” Grebner said.

Among those responding, 692 voters identified themselves as Democrats and of those, 301 (43 percent) rated Bernero's job performance as good; 240 (36 percent) said it was fair; and 114 (16 percent) said it was poor. Republican-leaning voters were harsher in their critique. Of 399 surveyed, 102 (26 percent) called the mayor's job performance good; 146 (37 percent) said it was fair; and 134 (34 percent) rated his as poor.

Bernero's favorability rating is higher among women than men. Of the 699 women responding to the survey, 262 (39 percent) rated Bernero's performance good; 240 (36 percent) said fair; and 113 (17 percent) rated his performance as poor. Men were more critical. Of the 422 responding, 141 (33 percent) rated the mayor's performance as good; 153 (36 percent) as fair; and 115 (27 percent) said he was doing a poor job.

And finally, the survey results suggested familiarity with Bernero lessens his appeal.

“It appears that those who pay the closest attention to issues and campaigns are slightly less enamored than those whose involvement is more hit-or-miss,” Grebner said.

The survey screened for whether respondents cast ballots in the city primary election last year. Of those that didn't vote, 41 percent (175 respondents) rated Bernero's job performance as good Of those who voted, only 34 percent (228 respondents) said the performance was good. The difference was also reflected among those who rated his job performance as poor: 18 percent (77 respondents) of non-voters and 26 percent (171 respondents) of voters.

Survey details: This survey for City Pulse was conducted Jan. 10 to 13 by Practical Political Consulting Inc. of Lansing. It identified the 7,000 most likely city voters with telephone landlines. Five attempts were made to reach potential respondents. The automated telephone survey response rate was 14.9 percent. Where appropriate, responses from the survey were matched with information in PPC's database.

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