Detroiters say quality K-12 schools is top policy priority for November elections

November 3, 2022

Detroit residents say the quality of K-12 schools is their top priority for the November elections, followed closely by inflation, affordable housing, affordable health care, and crime.

That's according to a new representative survey of Detroiters by the University of Michigan's Detroit Metro Area Communities Study. The survey—which took place June through August and received responses from 2,339 Detroiters—found 77% of residents indicate the quality of K-12 schools should be a high priority for elected officials. 

Other top policy priorities included inflation (75%), affordable health care (73%), affordable housing (73%) and crime (73%). Survey results are weighted to reflect the population of the city of Detroit. 

"The survey results offer new insights into what matters to Detroiters going into the November 2022 elections. While national attention has focused on the importance of inflation and crime, the quality of K-12 schools is at least as likely to be a high priority among Detroit residents," said Mara Cecilia Ostfeld, faculty lead of DMACS and research director of U-M's Center for Racial Justice

Ostfeld and Lydia Wileden, research associate at DMACS, co-authored a report with the Center for Racial Justice on Detroiters' likelihood to vote and their policy priorities for the November elections. Sixty-five percent of eligible voters in Detroit say they will definitely vote in the upcoming elections, while 23% are uncertain voters who say they will probably vote, and 12% say they definitely or probably will not vote. 

Uncertain voters are most likely to list the quality of K-12 schools (78%), inflation (76%), affordable health care (74%), affordable housing (72%), and crime (71%) as high priorities. Compared to Detroiters who say they will definitely vote, uncertain and unlikely voters list fewer policy issues as high priorities. Definite voters are far more likely to consider the environment; abortion; LGBTQ+ rights; and racial inequality as high priorities for elected officials. 

Black and white Detroiters differ in the degree to which they think elected officials should prioritize a number of issues, especially on rates of COVID-19, crime, accessibility of high quality jobs and policing reform. Among the priorities asked about, rates of COVID-19 ranked in the bottom third overall. Black Detroiters are twice as likely (60%) as white Detroiters (29%) and 1.5 times as likely as Latino Detroiters (41%) to say that COVID-19 rates should be a high priority for elected officials. 

"Overall, focus on COVID-19 is waning, but Black Detroiters and seniors—groups that have been disproportionately impacted by COVID—still expressed concern," Wileden said. "Detroit residents over the age of 65 are the most likely to want elected officials to prioritize COVID-19 rates, with 70% saying it's a high policy priority." 

Black (79%) and Latino (76%) Detroiters are significantly more likely than white Detroiters (52%) to indicate crime should be a high priority for government officials. Black Detroiters (61%) also are significantly more likely to say police reform should be a high priority for elected officials than Latino (45%) or white (42%) Detroiters. 

High quality jobs are another area with varying priority levels for different ethno-racial groups. Seventy-four percent of Black Detroiters listed high quality jobs as a high policy priority, compared to 58% of white Detroiters and 54% of Latino Detroiters.

Report: Detroiters' policy priorities: What matters to Detroiters leading up to the November 2022 elections

This article was written by Morgan Sherburne of Michigan News.