Detroit Regional Chamber > Media Coverage > Poll: Michigan Voters Skeptical of Electric Vehicle Transition

Poll: Michigan Voters Skeptical of Electric Vehicle Transition

March 3, 2023

The Detroit News
March 2, 2023
Riley Beggin

Michigan voters are split on the auto industry’s transition to electric vehicles, according to statewide survey results released Thursday by the Detroit Regional Chamber and polling firm Glengariff Group.

Around 46% of likely Michigan voters support the industry’s shift, while around 44% oppose it. A third of overall respondents said they “strongly oppose” the change.

The global auto industry is in the midst of transitioning from producing gas and diesel-powered vehicles to electric ones. They’re pouring billions of dollars into new facilities to build EVs and the batteries that support them, and forming new alliances to source critical minerals for those batteries.

But in Michigan, the center of the U.S. automotive industry, voters are skeptical that is the right move. Those who said they oppose the shift said they were worried the electric grid can’t support EVs, that they’re too expensive, and that the U.S. doesn’t have the infrastructure to support them. However, 58% said they would support public investment in EV chargers.

The poll of 600 people was conducted from Feb. 10-13 and has a margin of error of 4%. One quarter of the respondents were reached via landline and three quarters were reached via cellphone.

Opinions differed sharply along party lines, with Democrats largely supporting the shift and Republicans largely opposing it, while independent voters supported the shift 48-40%. Metro Detroiters supported the shift by 20 percentage points while outstate voters opposed it by around 10 percentage points.

Sandy Baruah, president and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber, said it’s clear that the global auto market is shifting to EVs, and it’s crucial for Michigan to be able to retain its footing as a leader in the industry.

“We’re not going to be able to compete and win in the global vehicle market in the future being 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,” Baruah said. “And right now we’re not there yet, so we have more education to do.”

Around 34% said they would consider buying an EV for their next vehicle, while more than 60% said they would not. Democrats, people under the age of 30, and wealthier voters were more likely to consider it.

The political split is not uncommon, said Richard Czuba, founder of the Glengariff Group.

“Nearly everything is part of the cultural divide right now,” Czuba said “So I don’t think we should be shocked to see this, but I do think it’s a challenge for the automakers simply because you’ve got half of the population saying they won’t even consider this.”

Baruah added that people want to be working on something that’s supported by the community. “If they’re working in an environment where people aren’t supportive of EVs, where they’re not seeing the investment or the adoption, that’s going to be a drain on talent,” he said.

Asked why they think the industry is transitioning to EVs, more than 43% said it is because government regulations and incentives are moving it toward electrification. Another 27% of respondents said the industry is changing because of pressure from environmental activists and 18% said it is because of consumer demand and market forces.

The Inflation Reduction Act, passed by Democrats in Congress last year, includes billions in incentives for EV production and sales, including tax credits for battery production and consumer discounts on EVs. The infrastructure law passed in 2021 also includes billions in funding to build a nationwide network of electric vehicle chargers. The Biden administration also implemented stronger fuel economy standards for model years 2024-2026.

The State of Michigan has also invested significant taxpayer funds into electric vehicle projects. Most recently, the state Legislature advanced $630 million to prepare a site near Marshall to house a Ford battery plant and another $170 million to the state’s business attraction fund.

Electric vehicles made up 7.1% of new light-duty vehicle sales in the third quarter of 2022, according to the most recent data from the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, through analysts expect market share of EVs will continue to rise in the coming years.

Glengariff also found that voters were pessimistic about the economy, with nearly half saying Michigan’s economy is on the wrong track. A quarter of respondents said inflation was the most important issue facing Michigan today, followed by the economy and jobs at nearly 11%.

Nearly half of voters believe a recession is coming. Perception of the economy also split along party lines with Democrats largely predicting economic growth and Republicans and independents overwhelmingly predicting the economy weakening or entering a recession. Still, around 78% say there are good jobs for people looking for work.

Poll respondents also believed it’s possible to be successful in Michigan with a minimum amount of education. Nearly 36% said a high school diploma is enough to be successful. Around a third said a trade certificate is enough, only 11% said an associates degree is necessary and around 8% said a four-year college degree is necessary.

That’s alarming for business leaders, Baruah said. “When you look at what employers are looking for, they’re looking for these highly educated people.”

Demand for skilled workers keeps growing in the high-tech automotive field that drives the state’s economy, he said, so “we need Michiganders to really understand the importance of having real skills.”

Still, 80% supported state financial aid for two years of continuing education for Michiganians, such as the Michigan Reconnect program. However, only around 15% of respondents knew about the program.