Feb 20, 2024 - News

MI focus groups: Swing voters sound off on EVs, SOAR and Whitmer

Gov. Whitmer speaks at podium during bill signing for the state's 100% clean energy pledge

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaks at Eastern Market during a bill signing for the state's 100% clean energy pledge. Photo: Samuel Robinson/Axios

Swing voters participating in online focus groups last week expressed concerns over the direction of the state's economic growth strategy.

Why it matters: None of the 14 voters were aware of the Strategic Outreach and Attraction Reserve Fund (SOAR), the state's multibillion-dollar fund to subsidize large manufacturing projects to sweeten the deal for major companies to build in Michigan.

Of note: Axios sat in on two Engagious/Sago online focus groups last week with 14 Michiganders who voted for former President Trump in 2016 and President Biden in 2020.

  • Eight are independents and six are Republicans. Most are from cities across Metro Detroit and two are from Holland and Jackson.
  • These focus groups aren't statistically significant samples like a poll, but the responses show how voters feel about current events.

What they're saying: "I think it really needs to go back into small businesses," Dennis B. of Jackson said of the more than $2 billion poured into the attraction fund. Jerome B. of Clinton Township said the state should try to bring new industry and different types of manufacturing instead of investing in the electric car market.

  • Most respondents said they did not support General Motors' plan to use the fund to expand an Orion Township plant, build an electric battery manufacturing facility in Lansing and make upgrades to two other Lansing-area plants.
  • "If GM wants to go all electric, they'll be out of business by 2035," Steve K. of Sterling Heights said.

Catch up fast: Michigan is trying to become an EV hub but has needed help from Chinese battery companies, which face pressure from skeptical residents and local Republican lawmakers.

On Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, the independent and right-leaning voters weren't as kind to the governor's future presidential chances as focus groups that included Democrats, but several did say they would like to see her run in 2028.

  • "I think that she is a really great individual to try and bridge the gap between the two sides that are so far apart. I think her being younger definitely helps," said Matt J. of Warren when asked whether he would like to see her run for president.
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