The Functioning of Democracy: Insights from Michigan’s local leaders

April 2020 - Current

Summary

CLOSUP’s Functioning of Democracy Project is designed to increase our understanding of how American democracy is functioning at the local level, based on the unique perspective of Michigan’s local government leaders. It also provided resources and analysis for faculty, students, and other participants involved in the University of Michigan’s 2020 Fall theme semester on “Democracy and Debate.”

These resources and projects draw from data collected through the Michigan Public Policy Survey (MPPS), a decade-long, ongoing program that surveys top elected and appointed local leaders across the state of Michigan. Over the years, the MPPS has fielded in-depth batteries of questions on a wide variety of issues related to our democratic system, such as citizen engagement, local officials’ trust in other levels of government and in their citizens, relationships and communication between the state government and its local jurisdictions, civil civic discourse, election administration, and more. 

The Functioning of Democracy Project aims to make MPPS accessible to users across the University and beyond, to integrate the Center's research data and findings into Theme Semester classrooms and programs, and to encourage a “deeper dive” into the wealth of available MPPS data.

THE MPPS DEMOCRACY COMPENDIUM

The MPPS Functioning of Democracy Compendium is a summary overview of the findings from many of the democracy-related topics asked of local officials on the MPPS questionnaires from 2009-2020. 

View the full report 

The compendium includes brief chapters on the following topics:

  • Citizen Engagement and Public Participation in Local Government Decision Making
  • Officials’ Opinions of Their Residents’ Input
  • Civic Discourse in Local Communities 
  • Working Relationships among Local and State Leaders
  • Trust in Government
  • Government Ethics
  • Voting and Election Administration
  • The U.S. Census
  • The Functioning of Democracy Overall

An article on the functioning of democracy specifically within Michigan's townships is featured in the Michigan Township Association's February 2021 Township Focus magazine

View the article

For more information about the Democracy Compendium, contact Dr. Debra Horner at dhorner@umich.edu

VIEWING MPPS DATA ACROSS THE URBAN-RURAL SPECTRUM

There is much talk, especially in recent years, about the urban-rural divide: the idea that people from urban and rural places think fundamentally differently about a whole range of policy issues, and about governance itself. Most commonly, this divide is attributed to politics and demographic differences between urban and rural residents.  But differences in geography—specifically population density, land use, and prevailing industry—may also contribute to different policy preferences and participation in government.  And further, while much attention is drawn to areas of disagreement, there are areas where Americans share common ideals.  

Using data from previous iterations of the Michigan Public Policy Survey (MPPS), Dr. Sarah Mills will lead a team of Ford School students in conducting in-depth analysis to identify where there are and—importantly—are not differences along the urban-rural continuum, as it relates to the functioning of democracy at the local level.  In particular, the project will explore similarities and differences in attitudes among local government leaders and their communities on issues such as:
 
•    The state of civil civic discourse
•    Public participation in decision-making
•    Community engagement practices
•    Access to government information and an informed citizenry
•    Local government policy priorities

Results of the project were presented in a public event on November 16, 2020.

For more information about this urban-rural continuum project, contact Dr. Sarah Mills at sbmills@umich.edu 

PRIMARY ANALYSIS OF MPPS DEMOCRACY SURVEY DATA VIA PUBLIC USE DATASETS

In order to share the MPPS data with other researchers and students, including classroom use at the graduate and undergraduate levels, in order to improve understanding of state and local government and provide analysts with direct access to the data themselves, a wide range of topic-specific MPPS Public Use Datasets (PUDs) have been deposited into the data archive at ICPSR.

These free and easy-to-use datasets and their accompanying codebooks can be downloaded immediately by anyone for analysis in Stata, SPSS, or as CSV files. They contain only portions of each survey, broken into themed collections of data. Datasets containing democracy-themed survey topics include:

Topic

Public Use Datasets

Citizen Engagement

Fall 2012
Fall 2016

Civic Discourse

Fall 2012
Spring 2018

Assessments of local jurisdiction internal relations

Spring 2018

Election Administration

Spring 2017

U.S. Census

Spring 2010
Spring 2019

Ethics and Accountability

Fall 2014

Assessments of Michigan’s Emergency Manager Law

Spring 2011
Spring 2012
Fall 2016

Police-community relations

Fall 2015

Trust in federal, state, and local governments

Spring 2009
Spring 2013
Fall 2016

Trust in citizens

Fall 2012
Fall 2016

Ratings of Michigan Governor and Legislature

Fall 2009
Spring 2011
Spring 2012
Spring 2013
Spring 2014
Spring 2015
Spring 2016
Spring 2017
Spring 2018
Spring 2019

Ratings of Michigan State Agencies

Spring 2014
Spring 2017

Rating of own jurisdiction’s governing Board or Council

Spring 2011
Spring 2012
Spring 2013
Spring 2014
Spring 2015

Ratings of U.S. President and Congress

Spring 2017
Spring 2018
Spring 2019

Assessments of whether state and U.S. are on the right track

Spring 2011
Spring 2012
Spring 2013
Spring 2014
Spring 2015
Spring 2016
Spring 2017
Spring 2018
Spring 2019

Public participation in decision making

Spring 2009
Fall 2009
Spring 2010
Spring 2015
Spring 2016
Fall 2016

For more information about the MPPS Public Use Datasets, contact Natalie Fitzpatrick at nfitzpat@umich.edu