A new survey panel conducted by MSU and the University of Michigan will measure the backgrounds and opinions of Michigan state officials as part of a joint effort to better understand discrepancies between the public and elected officials.
The Michigan Policy Insiders Panel, MPIP, will be conducted by MSU’s Institute for Public Policy and Social Research, IPPSR, and U-M's Center for Local, State and Urban Policy, or CLOSUP.
Public opinion and the opinions of local officials are currently measured by surveys conducted by MSU and U-M respectively, but by working together, IPPSR director Matt Grossmann said the two institutions will be able to assess potential divides between state, local and public opinion on Michigan issues.
“We think that there’s a lack of trust … in state government, and so we would like to see if policy insiders feel the same way or if they have different views of what the most important problems facing the state are," Grossmann said.
Grossmann, an associate professor in the Department of Political Science, said part of the survey is based on how the public is perceived by state officials, and the other part will be questions asked previously to the public, which will give surveyors a sense of whether or not state officials have different priorities than the public and why.
“We’re in the state capital region … yet only a subset of students and others in East Lansing are cognizant of what’s going on at the Capitol,” Grossmann said.
He said state government is typically the "odd man out" when it comes to public involvement, falling behind local and national interests.
“We hope people use this as an opportunity to learn more about what’s going on in state government,” Grossmann said.
CLOSUP administrator Tom Ivacko said the joint effort will hopefully give policymakers and other officials a broader set of input to consider when making decisions, and be a useful tool for academic research.
“We’re going to have this kind of triangulation on policy issues — state-level perspectives, local government perspectives and citizen perspectives," Ivacko said. "There’s just nothing like this going on in the country that we’re aware of."
However, Mark Grebner, MSU alumnus and former Ingham County commissioner, said comparing the public, local and state opinions won’t turn up anything of substance due to conflicting interests of the three.
“You can compare them all you want to — you’ll discover the public is inconsistent and shallow, that the state bureaucrats know a lot about their departments but nothing else, and that the legislating folks are just involved in trench warfare, they’re just worried about the next election, and the (local officials) ... there’s going to be (a focus on) specific, local little issues that just have nothing to do with anything else,” Grebner said. “It’s more like comparing shoes to canned goods to lumber.”
Grossmann said MPIP’s first survey results are expected to be published in October.
Grossmann said the follow-up questioning is currently being planned and the survey will be conducted multiple times a year with irregular timing.