Detroit Regional Chamber > Media Coverage > Nearly Half of Michigan Voters Don’t Think Four-year Degree is Worth the Money, Poll Shows

Nearly Half of Michigan Voters Don’t Think Four-year Degree is Worth the Money, Poll Shows

March 3, 2023

Crain’s Detroit Business
March 2, 2023
David Eggert

Only a quarter of Michigan voters say a college education is very important to landing a successful job and a four-year degree is worth the money, and voters are evenly split over automakers’ shift to electric vehicles.

They also believe the state is on the right track but its economy is on the wrong track. At the same time, they say they are doing better or about the same financially than in the past.

Sixty-six percent have a job requiring them to work in person, 22% are hybrid and 12% work mostly from home.

Those are some findings in the Detroit Regional Chamber’s latest statewide poll released Thursday. The survey of 600 registered voters was conducted Feb. 10-13.

Chamber President and CEO Sandy Baruah said the results reveal “disconnects,” creating challenge for policymakers and business leaders because employers need a more skilled workforce for higher-paying jobs in a technical, global economy.

Nearly eight in 10 Michigan jobs paying more than $64,000 are held by people with a bachelor’s degree or higher, according to a Michigan Future Inc. analysis.

“This demand is just continuing to grow, and we need Michiganders to really understand the importance of having real skills,” Baruah said. “We don’t always think that a college degree is the right answer for everyone. … But clearly getting the public policy right requires people to understand how important this is for our economic future. Right now there’s a disconnect.”

Seventy-one percent of respondents said a college education is important to getting a successful job, with nearly 27% calling it very important and 44% saying it is somewhat important.

About 28 % said a four-year degree is worth the money, 49 percent said it is not and 25 percent said it depends. Thirty-nine percent of college voters said it is not worth the money.

“There’s a real value-proposition problem when it comes to college education right now,” said pollster Richard Czuba of The Glengariff Group Inc., which did the poll.

Asked the minimum education level needed to be successful, 36% said a high school diploma, 11% a two-year associate’s degree, 33% a trade program certification, 8% at least some college courses and 8% a four-year degree.Voters under age 40 were most likely to say a trade certificate or associate’s degree.

Respondents do widely support providing state financial aid to attend college or get other skills training.

As the auto industry, including the Detroit Three, transitions to EVs, voters are divided. Forty-six percent support it, 44% oppose. Thirty-three percent strongly oppose, and they are largely Republicans.

Eighteen percent said the shift is due to consumer demand and market forces. Forty-three percent said it is because of government regulations and incentives, and 27% said environmentalists are pushing automakers toward EVs.

“For only 18% of the public to think that it is market forces or consumer demand that is driving this huge investment of private dollars into electrification is really interesting,” Baruah said. “It creates a challenge for policymakers and organizations like the Chamber and MICHauto as we’re really trying to get Michigan prepared for this oncoming new battleground of personal vehicle mobility.”

Sixty percent said they would not consider an EV when they buy their next vehicle; 34% said they would.

“A concern for the automakers has got to be that it’s getting wrapped up into the culture wars of party affiliation,” Czuba said.

Fifty-eight percent support Michigan’s efforts to spend on charging station infrastructure to help power EVs.

“That is good news because that is a critical element for Michigan to really kind of fight and win,” Baruah said. “We’re not going to be able to compete and win in the global vehicle market in the future, being largely or at least very predominantly electrified, if we don’t have alignment between what our companies are doing, what our government is supporting and what our public is willing to support as well. Right now, we’re not there yet.”

The poll also found:

  • More than half of workers under 40 who work at least part-time from home would look for a new job if forced to work full time in the office.
  • 25% consider inflation to be the most important issue facing Michigan.
  • 67% see the economy as weakening or in a recession, with Democrats envisioning growth or slow growth and Republicans and independents expecting a weakening economy or recession.
  • 41% expect inflation to worsen in the next year, about 30% say it will stay the same and roughly 24 percent predict it will get better.
  • Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s job approval is steady, at 54% support and 36% disapproval.
  • President Joe Biden’s job performance is at 35% support and 58% disapproval, down further from a December survey.