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Contact: Selma Tucker, Director of Marketing and Communications
Public Sector Consultants
(517) 484‑4954

Voters point to complexity, leadership issues for Prop 1 failure

Recently, Michigan voters overwhelmingly defeated Proposal 1, a measure designed to fund road repairs. We not only wondered why it failed, but more importantly, what do voters expect next time around? From May 14 to 16, 2015, Public Sector Consultants and Denno Research polled 600 likely voters to answer these questions and more.

We found the following sentiments among Michigan’s voters:

  • The proposal failed because it involved more than just fixing the roads.
  • There is a perception of failed leadership in the legislature and in the Governor’s Office.
  • The legislature and governor should be responsible moving forward.
  • People want the legislature to work over the summer to get this done.

Keep it simple. A common criticism of Proposal 1 was that it was too complicated and it included too many elements not related to roads (such as an impact on the School Aid Fund, and changes to the definition of “higher education”). Michigan voters confirmed this when we asked them why did Proposal 1 fail? Their answers fell into two main categories.

  • Nearly half (49 percent) said it was because it included money for special interests beyond just fixing the roads, confirming what other pollsters reported in the months leading up to the election.
  • At the same time, 21 percent felt that it was a failure of legislative leadership and the Governor’s Office. There was a perception that the legislature punted this solution to the voters and didn’t do their job. Not surprisingly, Democrats (28 percent) were more critical of legislative and executive leadership than Republicans (16 percent).

Get back to work. Next, we asked who should take the lead in crafting a new fix to Michigan’s road funding problem. There was no runaway winner among our choices, but voters sent a pretty clear message.

  • The top choice at 26 percent was the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) seeming to indicate that voters would like to see more coordination and public cooperation with the state agency charged with building and maintaining our transportation infrastructure.
  • The legislature came in with 23 percent of the vote, and not surprisingly (considering the legislature is controlled by Republicans), Republicans (28 percent) were more likely than Democrats (16 percent) to pick this option.
  • In what can only be interpreted as another slap to the face of those responsible, and a further indication of voter mistrust, 19 percent said the next effort should be done by the public through a voter‐​led initiative.
  • The governor was chosen by 15 percent of voters.
    The legislature and governor were tagged for their failure of leadership; a combined 38 percent of voters would like to see them take the lead going forward. But this time, more education and cooperation from MDOT would be well advised.

Do it now. While legislators may have had Michigan summer travel plans (no doubt dodging potholes and uneven pavement all the way to their destination), Michigan voters would prefer they stick around Lansing to get this done. Taken in the context of all of our choices, voters want legislation signed by the governor before the end of the summer:

  • 69 percent said as soon as possible
  • 13 percent by the end of the summer
  • 10 percent by the end of the calendar year
  • 5 percent there is no rush

Charting a course. All told, the message on Proposal 1 among Michigan’s voters was pretty clear: you did a bad job, go back to the drawing board, and get it done now. To create a plan to fix Michigan’s roads this time around, though, the legislature might need to take a road it has spurned in recent memory:  the road to compromise.

About the survey

Michigan Radio, an NPR News Station and the state’s most listened‐​to public radio service, and Public Sector Consultants (PSC), the state’s premier nonpartisan think tank, are partnering on a yearlong initiative studying Michiganders’ attitudes toward policy issues affecting their lives in a series called Michigan’s Pulse. Michigan’s Pulse will release quarterly in weeklong segments on Michigan Radio’s Stateside with Cynthia Canty with in‐​depth analysis by PSC researchers and other thought leaders.

The Michigan Radio/​PSC survey of the Michigan electorate was conducted by Lansing‐​based Denno Research. Six‐​hundred respondents in the state of Michigan were surveyed from May 14 to 16, 2015, with a margin of error of plus/​minus 4 percent. A screen was employed to include only those participants who said they would vote, either at the polls or by absentee ballot, in the November 2016 general election.

Full survey results are available here.

Public Sector Consultants is Michigan’s most respected, connected, and dedicated research and program management firm, with specialties in governance and regulation, health care, education, energy, and environmental policy. PSC is committed to providing objective research and sound solutions to the public and private sector.

Michigan Radio is an NPR News Station, and the state’s most listened‐​to public radio service, attracting more than 500,000 listeners each week across Michigan. Licensed to the University of Michigan, Michigan Radio broadcasts at 91.7 FM in southeastern Michigan, 91.1 FM in Flint, and 104.1 in western Michigan, and is available online at michiganradio​.org.

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