People’s perceptions of the state of the current economy in Wisconsin remains pessimistic, but expectations of future economic performance and the overall direction of the state have become more rosy, driven primarily by a change in outlook by political independents. These are the latest results of a quarterly survey conducted by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Center for Urban Initiatives and Research (CUIR).
The Wisconsin Economic Scorecard, a quarterly poll of Wisconsin residents that began earlier this year, measures perceptions of the health of Wisconsin’s economy as well as personal economic circumstances of Wisconsin residents. The survey is done in cooperation with Milwaukee public radio station WUWM-FM and WisBusiness.com.
The proportion of Wisconsin residents who feel the state is headed in the “right direction” (61%) has increased for the third consecutive quarter, up from 54.9% in July and 51.2% in March. And while most respondents predicted the state economy would stay about the same last quarter, a majority this quarter (52.1%) believe it will get better.
At the same time, however, residents remain gloomy about the current state economy, with a majority (53.4%) describing it as “fair,” and 21.6% saying it is “poor.” Just 24.1% say the state economy is “good.”
And 60.3% of respondents reported a problem with at least one major personal financial issue, such as affording rent or mortgage, keeping a job or getting a loan. That’s a jump from last quarter’s 51.2%.
Analysis suggests that responses about the state’s future economy are influenced by three factors – personal economic situation, union membership and political views, with the last factor being the strongest, says Joseph Cera, researcher and manager of the CUIR Survey Center at UWM. The vast majority of Republicans (91%) reported feeling that Wisconsin is headed “in the right direction,” while most Democrats (67.2%) said the state is “on the wrong track.”
Cera says that while partisanship clearly influences opinion on the direction of the state, change over time in the level of optimism has occurred because of shifting opinions among political independents. In July, independents were nearly equally split on the question. This quarter, 63% said “right direction” and only 37% said “wrong track.”
Other findings include:
- Residents once again cite “unemployment/jobs” as the most important economic issue facing the state, with 50.6% of responses falling into that category. “Government spending” (6.3%) and “health care” (5.0%) were the second- and third-most frequently cited issues.
· The survey also indicated that state residents know where they would like any additional state revenues to go in the next state budget. By a 2-to-1 margin, residents said they would prefer those revenues be used to augment funding for education rather than to receive tax cuts (56.9% to 27.3%).
· An additional “current events” question gauged whether residents would support a bill to establish mineral mining operations in the state. Nearly half (49.4%) said they would, while 41.3% said they were opposed.
This poll is a random digit dial telephone survey of 472 Wisconsin residents conducted by the CUIR from October 22-25. The margin of error is 4.5%. For complete results go online at www.wisconsineconomicscorecard.org.