Poll Finds Overwhelming Support for Michigan Taxpayer-Funded Business Subsidies

by Bruce Walker


A significant majority of the state’s voters support using taxpayer dollars to subsidize private businesses.

According to a statewide poll conducted by the Glengariff Group, Inc., and commissioned by the Business Leaders for Michigan, 76% of respondents favor government grants to businesses seeking to relocate or expand their footprint in the state.

A release from the Business Leaders for Michigan says the Strategic Outreach and Attraction Reserve fund, established in December 2021, is responsible for bringing 12,000 jobs and $17 billion of private investment to the state.

“Michigan has made progress in recent years toward becoming a more competitive state by focusing on bipartisan solutions to some of our most pressing issues. Voters recognize the importance of investing and planning for future growth,” Jeff Donofrio, president and CEO of Business Leaders for Michigan, said in a statement. “Michigan’s competitors aren’t waiting around for us, and if we don’t come together and act, they will leave us in the dust.”

The live-operator telephone survey with a sample of 600 respondents was conducted between Jan. 28 and Feb. 2.  The margin of error is +/-4.0% with a 95% level of confidence.

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a conservative-leaning think tank headquartered in Midland, is a long-time opponent of taxpayer-funded subsidies for private businesses.

“Research does show public support for incentives but too often support is a function of presuming the subsidies actually work. Evidence shows that between 75% to 98% of corporate expansions, relocations and retentions would have happened without incentives,” Michael LaFaive, a policy director at Mackinac, wrote in an email to The Center Square. “Independent scholarship indicates ‘starkly negative employment effects’ from subsidizing large corporations, precisely those SOAR incentive supporters are hoping to underwrite.”

He quoted a 2018 analysis conducted by the W.E. Upjohn Institute.

Wendy Block, the Michigan Chamber of Commerce’s senior vice president of Business Advocacy & Member Engagement, told The Center Square the MCC endorses the goals of the SOAR fund.

“The Michigan Chamber supports the intent of the Strategic Outreach and Attraction Reserve fund,” Block said in an email. “The bipartisan work between the Legislature and Governor on SOAR has put Michigan in a more competitive position as it relates to job creation and retention, but balances that with transparency, legislative oversight, and efficiency. We are not surprised that an overwhelming number of Michiganders support incentives for economic development projects,” she said.

Block continued: “Since its creation, Michigan has been more competitive for some of the largest projects in our state’s history, which will benefit businesses large and small across all industries in urban and rural areas for decades to come.  SOAR is not only a win for business but a win for workers who will have additional job and growth opportunities in the Great Lakes State.”

Other survey responses suggest state voters feel less strongly about repealing the state’s third grade reading law, which requires schools to retain third-graders who cannot pass the state-mandated reading proficiency tests. The survey concludes 73% of voters favor keeping the law in place.

“If we hope to make long lasting changes to our K-12 system that will put Michigan’s kids on a better trajectory, we need to continue to bring people together and take a holistic approach,” Donofrio said. “Michigan schools rank 40th for educational outcomes, and our high school graduation rate is 42nd in the country. We need to do better by our kids.”

According to the BLM survey, 45% of Michigan voters believe the state is on the right track compared to 40% who say it is on the wrong track; 14% did not offer an opinion. Additionally, 37% of voters believe Michigan’s economy is on the right track compared to 51% who believe it is on the wrong track.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s job performance received 55.5% approval among respondents, which is consistent with poll results compiled in autumn 2021.

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Bruce Walker is a regional editor at The Center Square. He previously worked as editor at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s MichiganScience magazine and The Heartland Institute’s InfoTech & Telecom News.
Photo “Business Man with Laptop on His Phone” by Austin Distel.


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