FW: U-M survey: Most local leaders want residents engaged, but see limits

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    ANN ARBOR – Most local government leaders in Michigan believe residents should
    provide input into policymaking, but relatively few think they should be
    deeply involved, according to a University of Michigan survey.
    Nearly two thirds (64 percent) of Michigan’s local leaders said residents
    should provide some input, while 17 percent say residents should simply stay
    informed about policy issues, according to the poll by U-M’s Ford School of
    Public Policy.

    Relatively few local leaders believe residents should get deeply involved,
    such as by recommending specific policy choices (9 percent), identifying
    policy options from which officials would choose (7 percent) or by making
    decisions on behalf of the local government (1 percent).

    The poll, part of the Michigan Public Policy Survey series at the Ford
    School’s Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy, reports:
    * A majority of local leaders (53 percent) believe their jurisdictions offer
    “a great deal of opportunities for their citizens to engage in local
    governance activities.”
    * Just 10 percent of local officials say their citizens are very engaged, 55
    percent say they are somewhat engaged and 34 percent say residents are not
    very or at all engaged.
    * About two thirds (64 percent) say their understanding of residents’ views
    has increased and 62 percent believe the quality of their decisions has
    increased as a result of fostering engagement.

    “While we found that many local government leaders don’t think residents
    should make decisions for the government in normal circumstances, that
    changes when it comes to controversial issues,” said Thomas Ivacko, CLOSUP
    administrator and program manager. “When it comes to hot-button issues, the
    percentage of local leaders who believe residents should make the final
    decision for the government increases markedly to 24 percent.”

    The study, conducted October-December 2012, involved surveys sent via
    hardcopy and the Internet to top elected and appointed officials in all
    counties, cities, villages and townships in Michigan. A total of 1,328
    jurisdictions returned valid surveys, resulting in a 72-percent response
    rate. The survey had a margin of error of 1.43 percentage points either way.


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