EXCLUSIVE POLL: Improving Michigan roads & bridges tops state concerns

DETROIT (WXYZ) - Michigan voters are fed up with the terrible condition of the state’s roads and bridges.  It’s an issue that has now become their #1 concern. In an exclusive new WXYZ-TV/Detroit Free Press poll, 29 percent of likely voters listed roads and bridges as Michigan’s top problem. 

Bernie Porn, president of the EPIC MRA polling firm that conducted the survey for our statewide media partners in Grand Rapids, Flint, Lansing and Detroit said, “It is stunning to me that the economy and jobs as the longstanding primary concerns of Michiganders has now been replaced by the desire to improve Michigan’s roads and bridges.” 

Eighteen percent of those surveyed declared the “economy and creating more jobs” as their second highest concern. And the poll of 600 potential state voters listed “improving the quality of education” as Michigan’s third biggest issue. Sixteen percent said they wanted more funding for public schools. 

The only other issue in double digits was “controlling government spending” at 13 percent.

We should also note that respondents were given three choices for Michigan’s list of concerns. Even with those results combined, improving state roads and bridges came out on top with 22 percent, followed by improving education at 17 percent, and boosting the economy and making more jobs available at 16 percent.

Perhaps the most interesting numbers was a clear breakout along political party lines. Democrats, Republicans, and Independents all agreed that roads and bridges, education, and creating jobs are Michigan’s three most important issues.

But the question remains, how do we pay for better roads and bridges?  

If there is a budget surplus this year, a 51 percent majority said they want it used on Michigan’s infrastructure. One-fourth of the survey takers want it used on K through 12 education. 

A proposal may be placed on a statewide ballot asking voters to approve a 1 cent increase in the current 6 cent sales tax. That would raise $1.2 billion in additional new funding for roads. 

Fifty-two percent say they would vote for the additional tax, 44 percent would vote against it.  Democrats favor a sales tax boost the most at 61 percent, Republicans at 49 percent, and Independents at 47 percent. Roughly 4 percent are undecided. 

Another proposal would increase road funding by $400 million. It would repeal the current 19 cents per gallon sales tax on regular gas and 15 cents per gallon on diesel fuel. They would be replaced with a 6 cents sales tax on the wholesale price. 

Another provision would designate 1 percent of the 6 percent use tax collected for transportation funding to provide $250 million more for roads. The plan would also double the fines for overweight trucks. Forty-eight favor this proposal, 30 percent would vote it down, 22 percent don’t know how they would vote.   

Some are suggesting a proposal that would convert several interstate highways in Michigan to toll roads.  Fifty-five say it’s a good idea, 38 percent would give it the thumbs down. 

And without question, the least favorite proposal of all is a system that would increase road funding by making motorists pay a fee based on the number of miles they drive, the time of day they travel, the route they take and the weight of the vehicle they drive. A whopping 77 percent say it’s a bad idea. Only 18 percent would approve it.

What ends up before the voters is still up in the air but, given their current mood, they want some kind of significant action on improving Michigan’s crumbling roads and bridges soon!

Our exclusive survey was conducted May 17 – 20. Twenty percent of the people who participated in the poll answered questions on their cell phones. The survey has an error rate of plus or minus 4 percent.

READ THE COMPLETE POLL RESULTS BELOW

Now I am going to read a list of state problems and issues that voters in Michigan say they are concerned about the most. After I read the whole list of nine problems, please tell me which one problem or issue that personally concerns you the most?

Improving the condition of roads and bridges
- 1st - 29%
- 2nd – 18%
- 3rd – 16%

Controlling crime and drugs
- 1st – 6%
- 2nd – 10%
- 3rd – 10%

Keeping state and local taxes low
- 1st – 6%
- 2nd – 10%
- 3rd – 10%

Improving the quality of education and increasing funding
- 1st – 16%
- 2nd – 19%
- 3rd – 16%

Providing affordable health care for everyone
- 1st - 7%
- 2nd – 10%
- 3rd – 8%

Addressing the Detroit bankruptcy
- 1st – 2%
- 2nd – 5%
- 3rd – 6%

Protecting our air and water
- 1st – 3%
- 2nd – 6%
- 3rd – 7%

Improving the state economy and creating more jobs
- 1st – 18%
- 2nd – 14%
- 3rd – 15%

Controlling government spending
- 1st – 13%
- 2nd – 8%
- 3rd – 12%

22% - Improving the condition of roads and bridges
17% - Improving the quality of education and increasing funding
16% - Improving the state economy and creating more jobs
11% - Controlling government spending
9% - Controlling crime and drugs
8% - Keeping state and local taxes low
8% - Providing affordable health care for everyone
5% - Protecting our air and water
4% - Addressing the Detroit bankruptcy

Turning to other issues, based on recent revenue estimates, there may be a state budget surplus this year. If there is a surplus, which one of the following purposes do you think the single largest amount of funding from a state budget surplus should be used for?

Increased funding for the maintenance and repair of state and local roads
- 1st – 51%
- 2nd – 26%

Increased funding placed into the budget stabilization, rainy day fund
- 1st – 4%
- 2nd – 9%

Increased funding for K through 12 education
- 1st  - 25%
- 2nd – 28%

Increased funding for Michigan’s 15 public universities
- 1st – 2%
- 2nd – 8%

A tax cut for Michigan taxpayers
- 1st – 13%
- 2nd – 15%

Increased funding for revenue sharing for local communities
- 1st – 4%
- 2nd 12%

None of the above
- 1st – N/A
- 2nd – 2%

Undecided
- 1st – 1%
- 2nd – N/A

39% - Increased funding for the maintenance and repair of state and local roads
26% - Increased funding for K through 12 education
14% - A tax cut for Michigan taxpayers
8% - Increased funding for revenue sharing for local communities
7% - Increased funding placed into the budget stabilization, rainy day fund
4% - Increased funding for Michigan’s 15 public universities
1% - None of the above
1% - Undecided/Refused

As a way of providing up to $1.2 billion dollars in additional, new funding for improvements and repairs to Michigan roads that experts say is needed, there may be a proposal on a future election ballot that would increase the state sales tax by 1 cent from its current 6 cents for every dollar spent to purchase goods, excluding food and drugs, to 7 cents, with all of the funding from the 1 cent increase dedicated for road repairs and improvements. If this proposal were placed on the ballot and the election were held today, would you vote YES to increase the sales tax by 1 cent to increase funding for roads, or, would you vote NO to oppose it

52% - Yes
44% - No
4% - Undecided/Refused

The Michigan Legislature is considering another a proposal that would increase funding for road repair and improvements by more than $400 million dollars. The proposal would repeal the current 19 cents per gallon sales tax on regular gasoline and 15 cents per gallon on diesel fuel and replace it with a 6% sales tax on the wholesale price of both types of gasoline. Another provision would earmark 1 percent of the 6% use tax collected on transportation funding to provide almost $250 million dollars for roads. This plan would also double the fines for overweight trucks. Based on what you know or have heard or read about this plan, do you favor or oppose this proposal

48% - Favor
30% - Oppose
22% - Undecided/Refused

Some people have suggested that a good way to provide the increased funding needed to improve and repair the roads is to change to a system where motorists pay a new fee that would be based on several factors, including the number of miles they drive, the time of day they travel, the route taken and the weight of the vehicle they drive. Based on this description and what you may know or have heard or read about such an approach that is under study, do you think this is a good idea or a bad idea?

18% - Good Idea
77% - Bad Idea
5% - Undecided/Refused

Another proposal recently discussed as a way to provide increased funding for road repairs and improvements in Michigan would be to convert several interstate highways in Michigan to toll roads? Do you favor or oppose this proposal

38% - Favor
55% - Oppose
7% - Undecided/Refused

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