Local leaders split over Gov. Snyder's job performance, state's direction

August 12, 2013

Just over half, or 51 percent, of Michigan's local government leaders say Republican Gov. Rick Snyder is doing a good or excellent job, while 45 percent say his performance is just fair or poor, according to a University of Michigan survey.

Meanwhile, 54 percent believe the state is headed in the right direction, continuing an upward three-year trend, according to the poll by U-M's Ford School of Public Policy.

The poll, part of the Michigan Public Policy Survey series at the Ford School's Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy (CLOSUP), reports that political party affiliation had a big impact on those results.

While two-thirds of Republican local officials think Snyder is doing a good or excellent job, just 43 percent of Independent officials and 19 percent of Democratic officials feel the same way.

And while 69 percent of Republican local leaders say that Michigan is headed in the right direction, fewer Independent officials (43 percent) and Democratic officials (26 percent) agree.

Regardless of their partisan identification, local leaders weren't quite as fond of the job the Michigan Legislature has done in the past year with just 26 percent overall rating its work as either good or excellent and 69 percent rating it as just fair or poor. Those figures are in line with their assessments in 2012.

Michigan's state government dealt with a host of controversial issues in the past year that impact local jurisdictions, including Right to Work legislation, a partial repeal of the state's personal property tax, the appointment of several city and school district emergency managers and the debate over Medicare expansion.

"When we asked local leaders why they gave a thumbs up or thumbs down to state policymakers' job performance, we received more than 3,000 explanations, covering a wide range of issues from economic and tax policy to social policy," said Tom Ivacko, program manager for the U-M Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy. "Our local government leaders are closely watching policymakers and policy developments in Lansing."

Two direct quotes on economic topics demonstrate the range of opinions held by local leaders. One local official who approves of the governor's performance said: "Governor Snyder inherited a broken state in a broken economy. He has been making great strides in rebuilding Michigan and helping small business, which is the base for where the economy must turn around."

But another local official who disapproves of Snyder's performance said: "The Governor is too concentrated on eliminating taxes for business at the expense of individuals. This hurts spending power in our community."

The study, conducted April 8 to June 9 involved surveys sent via hardcopy and the Internet to top elected and appointed officials in all counties, cities, villages and townships in Michigan. A total of 1,350 jurisdictions returned valid surveys, resulting in a 73-percent response rate. The survey had a margin of error of 1.4 percentage points either way.