Local leaders' concerns about Michigan’s direction spike, while evaluations of state leaders sink over the past year

July 2021

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 Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Legislature. 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 tracking comparisons to previous spring waves.

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Key findings

  • Statewide, 67% of Michigan’s local government officials say the state has gotten off on the wrong track, the highest level of pessimism reported since tracking began in 2011. Meanwhile, just 23% say the state is generally going in the right direction, a record low number.
    • As in the past, these views are strongly associated with partisan identification, yet declining assessments of the state’s direction are found among all partisan groups. Among self-identified Republican local leaders, just 10% say the state is going in the right direction, down from the 26% last year. Among Independents, 24% believe the state is currently headed in the right direction, down from 39% in 2020. And while 63% of Democrats remain optimistic about the direction of the state, this percentage is also down from last year’s high of 72%. 
  • Evaluations of Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s job performance have also fallen sharply in the past year. Nearly half (48%) of Michigan’s local officials rate her  performance in 2021 as “poor,” compared to 31% in 2020. Just a third (30%) currently rate her performance as either “excellent” or “good,” down from 39% last year.
    •  Again, these ratings are correlated with partisanship. Ratings of good or excellent for Governor Whitmer are found among 79% of Democratic local leaders,  compared with 41% of Independents and just 10% of Republicans. 
    • While evaluations of the Michigan Legislature’s performance last year—at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic— were up slightly from prior years, local officials today are significantly more critical. Statewide, a full 40% of local leaders say the Legislature is doing a poor job, compared to 19% who said the same in 2020. Only 14% say its performance is either excellent or good, the lowest such ratings for the Legislature since MPPS tracking began. 
    • Although on prior surveys Republican local leaders have been the most likely to give the Legislature positive ratings, these have dropped substantially. Today just 15% of Republicans say the Legislature is doing an excellent or good job, in line with assessments by Independents (12%) and Democrats (15%).


Michigan "off on the wrong track"


Two-thirds of Michigan local government officials say the state has gotten off on the wrong track. Spring 2021 MPPS

Governor's job approval


A third of Michigan local officials rate Governor Whitmer's job performance as good or excellent. Spring 2021 MPPS

Legislature's job approval


Local officials gave the lowest job approval ratings for the Michigan legislature since tracking began on the MPPS Spring 2021 MPPS