Michigan’s Upbeat on Economy; Less Positive on President Trump

Feb 3, 2020

Opinions from the latest State of the State Survey

Michigan consumers are more positive about their personal finances than they’ve been in nearly two decades, and by some measures, the most upbeat of the century, the latest State of the State Survey finds.


Those interviewed between June 13 and Nov. 3 said they consider themselves better off financially than a year ago, comfortable with their current household finances and confident they’ll be better off next year as well.

Michigan adults also cooled slightly toward President Donald Trump as the year ended, and gave Gov. Gretchen Whitmer her opening SOSS marks of “fair.”

While a positive economic outlook typically bodes well for an incumbent president, Trump’s ratings “are not all that great,” says State of the State Director Charles Ballard, a Michigan State University economics professor.

His favorable ratings – excellent and good choices combined, stood at 31 percent. “Almost exactly half gave him a rating of poor,” Ballard said.

Michigan’s residents answering the State of the State Survey (SOSS) also weighed in on their confidence in government – state, local and federal. Trust in local, state and federal government all dipped slightly.

SOSS results were outlined on IPPSR’s latest State of the State Podcast. Hosts IPPSR Director Matt Grossmann, Associate Director Arnold Weinfeld and SOSS Director Charles Ballard, an MSU economics professor, were January’s podcasters.

As Trump seeks re-election in 2020, under a third of Michigan’s residents – 31.4 percent – gave President Donald Trump a combined rating of “good” or “excellent.” Those marks are down from 33.9 percent “good” or “excellent” recorded in the survey completed just about a year ago.

In the latest phone survey, 50.3 percent of Michigan’s citizens ranked Trump’s ratings as “poor.” Another 18.3 percent gave the president, a Republican, a “fair” rating.

Among those answering questions about their trust in all levels of government, their trust in local government is higher now than in most of the century, Ballard said. Nearly 44 percent of those responding said they could trust local government “most of the time.”

The high mark came in 2002 when 46.9 percent of them said they could trust local government nearly all or most of the time.

In this survey, 21.3 percent of those responding said they could trust state government most of the time and 49.5 percent some of the time. Trust in state government reached a high point in 2002, when 36.2 percent of those answering the survey said they trusted their state officials.

Those who say they seldom or never trust their federal government outnumber those who indicate they trust federal government nearly all or most of the time by a three-to-one margin, Ballard says.

“Trust in the federal government is far below the all-time high, which came shortly after the attacks of September 11, 2001” when terrorists flew passenger planes into the World Trade Center in New York City, Ballard notes.

Trump stands at 15.6 percent “excellent,” compared to Whitmer’s 5.7 percent. Michigan gives Trump an 18.3 percent “fair” rating, and Whitmer a 46.1 percent “fair” mark. Trump’s “poor” marks are more than three times Whitmer’s 14.9 percent assessment.

“Trump wins more extreme responses than the first-term governor. He has a higher percentage of excellent ratings, but also a higher percentage of poor grades,” Ballard says. “The differences are even starker when you look at attitudes by race, sex and party affiliation.”

Women favor Whitmer over Trump. Among Black Michigan residents, 34.3 percent give Whitmer “good” or “excellent” performance marks. Trump wins 3.2 percent favorable marks from the demographic.

Trump wins high marks from nearly three-quarters of Republicans responding to the survey. More than half of Democrats responding – 56.8 percent – gave Whitmer favorable marks. Under 2 percent – 1.8 percent – of Democrats gave Trump high marks.

Independents rated them similarly. With a ±3.2 percent margin of error, 34.9 percent of Independents ranked Whitmer highly. In the latest SOSS measure, 33.8 percent of Independents ranked Trump highly.

Among those answering SOSS interviewers, 62 percent – just below the all-time high reading of 64.1 percent in 1999 – called their current finances “excellent” or “good.” Just 18 percent called their finances worse than a year ago, the lowest reading since 1999, Ballard says.

SOSS recorded 47.4 calling their households better off than a year ago. “Those ratings are among the best of this century,” Ballard says.

“Those who predicted they’ll be better off a year from now was also one of the best in more than a decade,” he says. In the latest SOSS, 63.2 percent forecast they’ll be financially better off in 2020, below the state’s 70.5 percent peak of optimism in 2001, before the state entered a slide to recession.

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