Economic growth in Michigan is moving in the opposite direction, with 67 percent of local government officials saying the state has gotten off on the wrong track as the COVID-19 pandemic subsides, according to the results of the University of Michigan’s newly released 2021 Michigan Public Policy Survey.
Numerous challenges have dominated public policy and governance across the state, including the health, education, and economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the political arguments about lockdowns, mask wearing, vaccine distribution, and other public health measures.
The Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy at U-M’s Ford School of Public Policy conducts the Michigan Public Policy Survey every spring. The 2021 Michigan Public Policy Survey gathered the information during April and May, through its census survey of 1,856 general purpose local governments throughout the state.
Among the survey’s key findings:
- Statewide, 67 percent of local government officials say Michigan has gotten off on the wrong track — the highest level of pessimism reported since tracking began in 2011. Meanwhile, 23 percent say the state is generally going in the right direction, a record low number.
- As in the past, these views are strongly associated with partisan identification, though declining assessments of the state’s direction are found among all partisan groups. Among self-identified Republican local leaders, 10 percent say the state is going in the right direction, down from 26 percent last year. Among Independents, 24 percent believe the state is currently headed in the right direction, down from 39 percent in 2020. And while 63 percent of Democrats remain optimistic about the direction of the state, this percentage is also down from last year’s high of 72 percent.
- Evaluations of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s job performance also have fallen sharply in the past year. Nearly half (48 percent) of Michigan’s local officials rate her performance in 2021 as poor, compared to 31 percent in 2020. Roughly a third (30 percent) currently rate her performance as either excellent or good, down from 39 percent last year. Ratings of good or excellent for Whitmer are found among 79 percent of Democratic local leaders, compared with 41 percent of Independents and 10 percent of Republicans.
- Asked about the performance of the Michigan Legislature, statewide 40 percent of local leaders say the legislature is doing a poor job, compared to 19 percent who said the same in 2020. Some 14 percent say its performance is either excellent or good. These are the lowest ratings for the legislature since tracking of these views began. Although Republican local leaders have been the most likely to give the legislature positive ratings in prior surveys, these have dropped substantially. Today, 15 percent of Republicans say the legislature is doing an excellent or good job, in line with assessments by Independents (12 percent) and Democrats (15 percent).
- Another area of bipartisan agreement: In addition to the direction of the state overall, the survey asks for views on the direction of both the U.S. as a whole, and of their own local county, township, city, or village. While partisan differences are clear at the state and national levels, when it comes to confidence in their jurisdiction’s direction, local leaders are uniformly positive, according to the survey.
“The last year has brought significant challenges for our state, its communities, and citizens, including many impacts from the historic pandemic,” says Tom Ivacko, director of U-M’s Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy. “Local leaders across Michigan are telling us that state leaders haven’t met these challenges yet, and as a state we’re heading in the wrong direction today.”
Launched in the wake of the Great Recession in 2009 by U-M’s Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy, the MPPS survey is conducted in partnership with the Michigan Association of Counties, Michigan Municipal League, and Michigan Townships Association.
To access the report, visit here.