Surprise: U.P. local government leaders buck the trend and report some improvement in state-local relations since 2016


The following article, written by Debra Horner, Natalie Fitzpatrick, and Thomas Ivacko at the University of Michigan’s Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy (CLOSUP), presents a unique trend in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Contrary to the statewide decline in positive perceptions of state-local relations, the U.P. reports improved relations since 2016.

This finding, based on the Spring 2023 Michigan Public Policy Survey, sets the U.P. apart, indicating a distinct dynamic in state-local government relations in this region. Let us know your thoughts on this article and the information presented.

We will be publishing the second part of this research tomorrow.

How do local leaders in the U.P. view their government’s relationship with the state government in Lansing? The Spring 2023 Michigan Public Policy Survey (MPPS) of Michigan’s local government leaders asked about the relationship between their jurisdiction and Michigan’s state government and compared the responses with answers to similar questions asked in Fall 2016.

As shown in Figure 1 below, 39% of local leaders from the Upper Peninsula rate their local government’s relationship with the state government as either good (36%) or excellent (3%). Looking by region, these positive ratings are second highest, following Southeast Michigan (where 43% give positive ratings).

Meanwhile, 41% of local officials from the Upper Peninsula say their local government’s relationship with the State is only fair, and 6% say it is poor. These “poor” ratings are the lowest regional percentages in the state, well below the 14% statewide average.

Figure 1
Local officials’ assessments of their local government’s overall relationship with the state government in 2023, by region.









Over the past seven years, assessments of state-local relations have generally become more pessimistic across the state (see Figure 2 below). For instance, the percent of all local officials saying their relationship with the state is positive declined from 46% to 34% while the percent saying the relationship was just fair or poor increased from 49% to 56%.

The U.P. bucked this trend. While positive assessments in the U.P. remained essentially unchanged, assessments of “poor” relationships dropped sharply from 19% in 2016 to just 6% in 2023.

Figure 2
Local officials’ assessments of their local government’s overall relationship with the state government, 2016 vs. 2023









These assessments are based on statewide surveys of local government leaders from the Michigan Public Policy Survey (MPPS). Since 2009, the University of Michigan’s Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy (CLOSUP) has conducted the MPPS to gather the insights and concerns of elected and appointed officials from all 1,856 of Michigan’s general purpose local governments on a wide variety of topics.

The spring 2023 wave received responses from 136 Upper Peninsula jurisdictions, including 10 counties, 18 cities, 11 villages, and 97 townships.

CLOSUP staff are available to answer questions and help interpret the data (by email at or by phone at 734-647-4091).

Meanwhile, the full MPPS brief on state-local government relations is available at:

And for more information about the MPPS program, see:

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Debra Horner

Debra Horner is on staff with the Ford School's Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy (CLOSUP) where she is a project manager on the Michigan Public Policy Survey (MPPS) program. She has been a regular lecturer in U-M's Political Science Department for over a decade and also teaches a course on Michigan politics and policy at the Ford School. Horner's primary areas of research focus on individuals' political attitudes and political participation, as well as policymaking at the state and local levels in Michigan. She received her undergraduate degree from Duke University and her doctorate in political science from the University of Michigan in 2007.

Natalie Fitzpatrick

Natalie Fitzpatrick joined CLOSUP in June 2015 as a research area specialist. She is responsible for data operations and management for the Michigan Public Policy Survey (MPPS) and the National Surveys on Energy and the Environment (NSEE). She received her bachelor's degree in economics and master's degree in agricultural economics from Michigan State University. Prior to joining CLOSUP, she worked for the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) at the University of Michigan.

Thomas Ivacko

Tom Ivacko joined CLOSUP at its founding in the fall of 2001 and serves as executive director of the center. He also oversees the Michigan Public Policy Survey (MPPS) program and has been the lead or co-author on more than 50 MPPS publications covering a wide range of state and local government policy topics. He previously served as study manager, program manager and administrator for 11 years with the American National Election Studies at the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research. Outside of work, Tom serves as a board member and past president of a nature area non-profit organization that focuses on stewardship and elementary school environmental educational opportunities in Ann Arbor, MI. He has a bachelor's degree in political science and a master's in public administration, both from the University of Michigan.


  1. STEVE POWERS on December 6, 2023 at 10:50 am

    The overall relationship will be much different when the next survey is taken.

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