Rising confidence in Michigan’s direction among local leaders, but partisan differences remain

July 2018

This report presents the opinions of Michigan’s local government leaders regarding the direction in which the state is headed, as well as their evaluations of the job performance of Governor Rick Snyder and the Michigan Legislature. These findings are based on statewide surveys of local government leaders in the Spring 2018 wave and comparisons to previous Spring waves of the Michigan Public Policy Survey (MPPS).

Key findings

  • For the second straight year, the percentage of Michigan’s local leaders who are optimistic about the state’s direction has increased. Statewide, over half (56%) believe Michigan is headed in the right direction, up 9 percentage points from last year and 12 points from a recent low in 2016. Meanwhile, a third (33%) say the state is off on the wrong track. These views continue to be strongly correlated with party identification.
    • Optimism has increased among officials of all partisan affiliations, though wide gaps remain across partisan identification categories. Among self-identified Republican officials, 72% say the state is headed in the right direction, up from 64% last year. Among Independents, less than half (46%) express optimism about the state’s direction, yet this is up significantly from 31% last year. Meanwhile, Democratic officials’ optimism increased to 30%, up slightly from 26% in 2017.
    • When looking by jurisdiction population size, the percentage of officials saying Michigan is headed in the right direction increased in communities of all sizes. However, among officials from urban jurisdictions, less than half (43%) say the state is headed in the right direction in 2018. 
  • Local leaders’ positive job approval ratings for Governor Rick Snyder have risen for the second year in row, although sharp partisan differences exist here as well. Statewide, a majority (52%) rate his performance as either “good” (42%) or “excellent” (10%), compared with 46% who said the same last year, and 41% two years ago. Meanwhile, 13% rate his performance as “poor,” down from 20% in 2017 and 26% in 2016. 
    • Positive ratings for Governor Snyder are found among 68% of Republican local leaders, compared with 49% of Independents and 23% of Democrats.
  • Job evaluations of the Michigan Legislature’s performance remain significantly lower than those for the Governor, though they have improved slightly since last year. Just over a quarter (28%) of local officials say the Legislature’s performance is good or excellent, up slightly from 25% in 2017. And, while 29% of local leaders rate the Legislature as “poor,” this is the smallest such rating since MPPS tracking started in 2009.
    • Positive ratings for the Legislature are found among 38% of Republican local leaders, compared with 17% of Independents and 12% of Democrats.