Most Michigan political “insiders” consider themselves neither liberal nor conservative.
Participants in state policymaking are more likely to identify as Republican than Michigan’s adult population, but they are not nearly as conservative, according to results from the first-ever Michigan Policy Insiders Panel (MPIP).
MPIP, an online panel survey of the most influential actors in state policymaking, is a collaboration between Michigan State University’s Institute for Public Policy and Social Research (IPPSR) and the University of Michigan’s Center for Local, State and Urban Policy (CLOSUP). The results were published in a report available at ippsr.msu.edu and in an appendix also published online.
“State political insiders are more partisan than the Michigan public, but they are not ideological extremists,” said IPPSR Director Matt Grossmann. “Most place themselves in the ideological middle and they are far less likely than other citizens to call themselves conservatives, especially in the administration and advocacy community.”
Political scientists typically see political elites driving ideological polarization, but the MPIP results show a more moderate state leadership. Across all survey respondents, 16.1 percent identified themselves as conservative, 60.5 percent call themselves in the middle and 23.4 described themselves as liberal.
Within Michigan’s general population, 39.8 percent call themselves conservative, 36.2 percent believe themselves in the middle and 24 percent identify as liberal.
MPIP surveyed policy insiders across the Michigan Legislature, executive branch and Lansing’s community of non-governmental organizations. Among legislative staff, 22.2 percent identified themselves as conservatives. But only 12.2 percent of state executives and 18.5 percent of respondents influencing policy from positions outside government identified themselves as conservatives.
Michigan’s Republican electorate is overwhelmingly conservative, but its Republican insiders are relatively moderate. “This may help explain why Republican elites so often find themselves at odds with their party’s base,” Grossmann said.
The new report also details the demographics and political attitudes of Michigan insiders, including their trust in government and approval of Gov. Rick Snyder and President Barack Obama.
Survey respondents also offered their views on the most important problem facing the Legislature and the Governor, most often mentioning education and infrastructure.
MPIP is designed to be compared with the views expressed by the general public in IPPSR’s State of the State Survey and in CLOSUP’s Michigan Public Policy Survey, a biannual measure of attitudes and opinions expressed by local officials.
“We see this as an exciting new venture, an outstanding first step toward understanding more about state decisionmaking,” said CLOSUP Administrator Tom Ivacko.
The second MPIP survey is now in the field. It asks panelists to predict the results of the 2016 presidential election and the Michigan Legislature’s “lame duck” session between the election and year’s end.
IPPSR invited high-ranking state agency executives, members of Michigan’s Legislature and staff aides, association and corporate lobbyists, public relations and media professionals to take part in the panel.
A total of 537 respondents agreed to serve on the panel and completed the survey between Sept. 14 and Oct. 2.
“We are excited to have the participation of a wide range of state political insiders. We have already learned much from the preliminary information they have shared, and we look forward to regularly assessing their views,” said MSU political scientist Eric Gonzalez Juenke, project co-director.
IPPSR’s Office for Survey Research, known for its rigorous survey research, organized and conducted the online panel survey. Karen Clark serves as project manager and can answer methodological questions from panel participants.
IPPSR applies research to pressing public policy issues and builds problem-solving relationships between the academic and policymaker communities. It houses the Michigan Political Leadership Program, Legislative Leadership Program, Office for Survey Research, State of the State Survey, Public Policy Forums, and Michigan Applied Public Policy Research Grants.