Michigan residents who have been following the financial woes of Detroit, and all that entails, have heard a litany of negative reports and commentaries, often slamming the city, its leaders and workers for inviting trouble through years of corruption.
A new EPIC-MRA poll of 600 Michigan residents, not including those who live in Detroit, sheds some light on how the rest of the state really feels about the troubles of the Motor City. The poll has a margin of error of 4 percent, and relied 80 percent on landlines, meaning the demographic skews towards older generations.
First, let’s get the “who’s at fault” question out-of-the-way, before we move on to some positive findings. Predictably respondents overwhelmingly blamed poor leadership and fiscal mismanagement, with 51 percent citing those causes. And, of course the list wouldn’t be complete without 8 percent still howling over Kwame Kilpatrick. It’s not until we get into the single digits that we find the real driving factors behind the city’s structural deficit: the economy, loss of manufacturing, shifting populations, and legacy costs. Just as with Flint and Pontiac, no one person or organization is responsible.
Responses to other questions on how to solve the problems and what priorities to set provide insight into how important Detroit remains to the state’s citizenry.
A series of three related questions drew very interesting responses:
1. When asked whether they support Gov. Snyder’s proposal to spend $350 million on the city, a plurality of 49 percent favored the idea, and 34 percent opposed, with 17 percent undecided/refused.
2. The next question is very telling. The poll inquired if knowing that the $350 million would go to reduce the impact of bankruptcy on Detroit retirees and to prevent artworks from the Detroit Institute of Arts from being sold would influence their support. An encouraging 46 percent said they would be more likely to support the proposal, and only 13 percent said they would be less likely. The remaining either said “no influence” or simply demurred the question. Much of the negative clamor over Detroit’s situation has been directed at union members and their legacy costs — this supportive response soundly belies that attitude.
3. The next question asked again if overall they favored the $350 million proposal after learning where the money would be directed. This time the approval came in at 62 percent, with 32 percent opposing, and only 6 percent unsure.
The response to another question should have outstate lawmakers sitting-up and taking notice. When asked “How much of a priority do you think addressing Detroit’s financial recovery should be for your state Senator or state Representative — should it be a top priority, important but not a top priority, only somewhat important, or not really important at all?”
Respondents also reported an overall positive impression from their visits to Detroit, with 64 percent giving the city a thumbs-up, and based on their experience, 75 percent said they will probably visit the city again.
Those polled identified themselves as 34 percent Democrat, 35 percent Republican, 26 percent Independent, and 5 percent other/refused — a demographic that certainly covers the political spectrum.
These results should serve as a wake-up call to Michigan’s leaders who have largely been unwilling to understand that by not doing all that is necessary to revitalize Detroit, the state is cutting off its nose to spite its face. This is a job for the whole state of Michigan.
Related updates: Attorney General Bill Schuette, who has publicly stated he would oppose Detroit pension cuts as a violation of the state’s constitution, has modified his position. If union members vote to approve cuts, he will drop his opposition. Article here.
The Big Three automakers are considering putting-up some big bucks to protect treasures at the DIA from sale. Article here.