Michigan gives economy high marks; lower ones to president and governor

August 25, 2017

Michigan residents are upbeat about the state’s economy but a bit downbeat about their current governor and President Donald Trump in Michigan State University’s latest State of the State Survey results released Friday.

President Trump won favorable ratings – either good or excellent responses — from 28 percent of those participating in the land and cellphone survey conducted between April 19 and July 30.

Gov. Rick Snyder’s ratings improved slightly from the previous State of the State Survey (SOSS). He won favorable reviews from 29.3 percent of those responding to the survey.

In contrast, the current economy remained in high standing with the 954 Michigan adults interviewed between April 19, 2017 and July 30, 2017.

Sixty-two percent of those responding called their current finances good or excellent – the best numbers since 2002, said SOSS Director Charles Ballard, an MSU economics professor.


Trump ratings lackluster overall

About 9 percent of those responding to the survey called Trump’s job performance excellent and 19 rated his performance as good. Of those answering the survey, 51 percent gave him a poor rating, Ballard said.

“Donald Trump scored a narrow victory in Michigan in last November’s election, but that doesn’t appear to have translated into lasting strong public approval,” Ballard said.

“This survey was taken in late spring and early summer at a time when Trump was unable to score significant legislative achievements, and when his White House often appeared to be in disarray.”

Trump’s favorable ratings decreased over the time that the survey was in the field, Ballard said. Trump’s favorable ratings, either excellent or good, fell from 31.5 percent in April to 20.4 percent in July. At the same time, his poor ratings rose from 46.1 percent to 59.4 percent.

Trump’s 28 percent favorable rating is the lowest SOSS has recorded for a president at the beginning of his term, Ballard said. President George W. Bush’s approval stood at 41 percent when he took office in 2001, and Barack Obama scored 71 percent favorable when he took office in 2009.

During the 24 years of the State of the State Survey, the lowest presidential approval ratings came in the fall of 2008 when only 13.7 percent of Michigan residents gave George W. Bush a rating of excellent or good.

Though Trump’s ratings were lackluster overall, he received strong support from members of his own party, Ballard added.

Among Republicans, 69 percent rated Trump favorably. Among Independents, 28 percent rated his performance favorable. Three percent of Democrats gave him favorable marks.

The President also received strong support from those who had the most positive views of his travel ban, which was among the questions asked in the survey. Some 21 percent of the survey respondents said they strongly approve of the travel limits. Among that group, 76 percent described Trump’s job performance as either excellent or good.

Gov. Rick Snyder’s ratings improved slightly from the previous survey, but his favorable ratings remained below 30 percent, at 29.3 percent.

“Snyder’s favorable ratings plummeted to about 25 percent in the wake of the Flint water crisis, and they have not yet fully recovered,” Ballard said. For most of his time in office, Snyder’s favorable ratings were recorded at 34 percent or higher in SOSS measures.

In the last survey taken before news of the Flint water situation broke, Snyder won 41 percent favorable ratings.

In comparison, Republican Gov. John Engler’s approval ratings were in the high 40s and low 50s in the late 1990s. The recession of 2001 took a toll, and Engler’s approval ratings fell to a low of 33.7 percent in the fall of 2002, in the last survey before he left office.

Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s numbers fell fairly steadily – from a high of 58.1 percent in 2003, during her first year as governor, to a low of 18 percent in the last survey before she left office in 2010.


Financial views stay positive

Despite mediocre ratings for the president and governor, Michigan residents continue to feel good about the state’s economy, Ballard said.

When asked to compare their current financial situation with the situation of one year ago, 47.8 percent said they are better off, an improvement of about three percentage points from the previous survey. At the same time, 20.7 percent said they were worse off than a year ago, the lowest and best reading since 1999.

Some 56.7 percent said they believe they’ll be better off a year from now, while only 21.4 percent believe they will be worse off. “Both of those readings are similar to where they have been for the last four years, with the “better-offs” outnumbering the “worse-offs” by substantially more than 2 to 1,” Ballard said.

Each consumer-confidence indicator in the survey was much better than the numbers from recession-plagued 2009, but none of them has yet reached the highs achieved in 1998 and 1999, he said.

“In the first decade of this century, Michigan’s economy slowed from high gear to low gear and then went into reverse. But we have now had eight consecutive years of economic growth,” Ballard said.

“Since employment bottomed out, Michigan has added more than 550,000 jobs.  That’s reflected in consumer-confidence numbers that are much better than they were in 2009.”

The survey’s margin of error was ±3.17 percent.

SOSS has been conducted since 1994 by the Institute for Public Policy and Social Research’s Office for Survey Research.

IPPSR is also home to the Michigan Political Leadership Program and the Legislative Leadership Program. IPPSR also administers the Rosenthal Legislative Internship Program, Michigan Policy Insiders Panel, numerous research programs and legislative staff training as a unit of the College of Social Science.