Local leaders' pessimism about Michigan's direction continues, eases slightly from last year

July 6, 2022

More than 60% of Michigan's local government leaders say the state has gotten off on the wrong track—down slightly from last year yet still among the most pessimistic responses since tracking began in 2011. 

According to those local leaders surveyed by the University of Michigan, 62% saw things going in the wrong direction, compared with 67% last year. Meanwhile, only 28% say the state is generally going in the right direction, a slight improvement from 23% last year.

The findings come from the first results of the spring 2022 wave of the Michigan Public Policy Survey (MPPS) conducted by the Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy (CLOSUP) at the Ford School.

The views are strongly associated with partisan identification, with most Republicans and independents expressing pessimism about the state's direction, compared with Democrats' optimism. Among self-identified Republican local leaders, only 12% say the state is going in the right direction, similar to the 10% who said the same last year. 

Among independent local officials, there was more notable improvement: 32% say the state is headed in the right direction, up from 24% in 2021. Meanwhile, 72% of self-identified Democrats remain positive about the direction of the state, up from 63% in 2021.

"Assessment of the job performance of both Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and of the Michigan Legislature has risen slightly in the past year, but skepticism about state government remains strong," said Debra Horner, senior program manager on the MPPS. "That is despite the massive infusion of federal and state aid since the start of the pandemic, which has led to an economic boost to local governments." 

The survey shows that despite partisan differences in concerns about the state and nation as a whole, local officials across the board are overwhelmingly optimistic about the direction in which their own local jurisdictions are headed, with around 90% saying their local jurisdiction is headed in the right direction.

"Local leaders overwhelmingly give their communities high marks, across all parties, and that's been consistent over time," said Tom Ivacko, executive director of CLOSUP. "But evaluations of the governor, and views of the state’s direction are consistently and strongly tied to partisanship. This latest survey finds the widest partisan disparity since we started gauging the 'right direction' question in 2011."

The MPPS is an ongoing census survey of all 1,856 general purpose local governments  in Michigan conducted by U-M's Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy since 2009.

Read the full report here.