Michigan local officials’ assessments of American democracy at the state and federal levels decline sharply

November 2021

This report presents local government leaders’ views regarding the functioning of democracy in their jurisdictions, the State of Michigan, and the United States as a whole, as well as their confidence in elections in their own jurisdiction, across Michigan, and in other states. These findings are based on statewide surveys of local government leaders in the Spring 2021 wave of the Michigan Public Policy Survey (MPPS), conducted between April 5 and June 7, 2021, and includes comparisons to Spring 2020 wave responses.

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Key findings

  • Michigan local leaders’ ratings of the functioning of American democracy at the state and federal levels have dropped significantly since last year.  
    • On a ten-point scale—where one means a total breakdown of democracy and ten means a perfectly functioning democracy— 43% of the state’s local leaders rate democracy in the state of Michigan at four or lower today. This is more than double the 18% who felt this way a year ago. It also includes 11% today who see a “total breakdown of democracy” in Michigan, up from 3% last year. 
    • Meanwhile, 66% of Michigan local leaders rate democracy across the U.S. today at four or lower on the ten-point scale, up significantly from the 43% who gave such low ratings last year. And today, nearly a quarter statewide (23%) feel there is a total breakdown of democracy at the federal level, up sharply from 7% last year. 
  • By contrast, Michigan local leaders continue to give high ratings to the functioning of local democracy in their own jurisdictions, with 84% rating it at seven or higher, unchanged from assessments in 2020. 
  • Mirroring these assessments of the functioning of democracy overall, local officials express high levels of confidence in their own jurisdictions’ elections, but have significantly lower confidence in elections elsewhere in Michigan and in other states. 
    • At the local level, 88% of officials say they have either complete or high confidence in elections in their own jurisdictions. However, this drops to 48% who have complete or high confidence in elections in Michigan, and just 26% for elections in other states across the country. 
    • Confidence in their own local elections is high among leaders from all political parties. However, local officials who self-identify as Republicans are significantly less confident in elections in Michigan statewide as well as in other states, compared to local leaders who identify as Independents or Democrats. 

Poor functioning of democracy in Michigan


43% of the state’s local leaders rate democracy in the state of Michigan at four or lower today, up from 18% in 2020. Spring 2021 MPPS

Total breakdown of federal democracy


Nearly a quarter of local officials statewide feel there is a total breakdown of democracy at the federal level, up sharply from 7% last year. Spring 2021 MPPS

Confidence in own elections


A large majority of Michigan local officials report complete or high confidence in elections in their own jurisdiction. Spring 2021 MPPS