Detroit Regional Chamber > Mackinac Policy Conference > What Michiganders Want: Investments in Children

What Michiganders Want: Investments in Children

September 20, 2021

A poll issued by The Skillman Foundation and Michigan’s Children found that Michigan residents want to prioritize investing in children. Across all geographies and demographics, voters expect their dollars to be put to work to help children lead healthy, productive lives. Matt Gillard, president and chief executive officer of Michigan’s Children, and Celinda Lake, president of Lake Research Partners, joined the Conference to present findings from a statewide poll and examine what it indicates for policymakers and child advocates, in a session hosted by The Skillman Foundation. Angelique Power, president and chief executive officer of The Skillman Foundation, moderated the discussion.

“Children are the barometer of our well-being and so if children are thriving, then we collectively, as a society, are thriving. And if children are suffering today then our collective tomorrows will be difficult,” said Powers.

The pandemic had a traumatic impact on society, particularly children. The data collected in the phone survey of 800 Michigan voters was targeted at discovering what Michiganders know about the impact on children and what they expect in terms of investment.

Added Powers, “Across the beautiful state of Michigan, across racial and ethnic lines, across geography and socio-economic stratospheres, there is a universality of a response to this poll that is very unique in this time of difference. There is a call and a mandate that we center children and their needs.”

The poll found that overall, Michiganders want more investment and expect more investment in children by their elected officials. In fact, over 58% of respondents expect more public investments in children across the state, even if it meant raising their own taxes.

“The general public gets it; the voters get it. They understand that to emerge from this pandemic is going to take significant investment in order for us to help those kids that were so tremendously impacted and still being impacted by the pandemic, as you see it today,” said Gillard.

In addition, the poll demonstrated that across every geographical area of the state, the results were similar in supporting increased investment.

“There’s not many issues where you will see, across the geographical spectrum of Michigan, support for one type of investment or one particular area of focus…this is going to be critically important,” Gillard said.

Top concerns outlined by the poll: 

  • Children falling behind in school due to the pandemic
  • Children living in households that struggle to afford basic needs
  • Exposure to trauma in homes and communities
  • Mental health of children
  • Not every child getting the learning support they need

“Out of school time learning opportunities are going to be critically important for us to be able to mitigate the damage that has been done educationally for a whole generation of children who have made it through this pandemic,” noted Gillard.

Where investments should be made: 

  • Career exposure, job training, and skill building
  • Programs to improve children’s mental health
  • Programs that reduce the number of youths in the criminal justice system
  • More affordable child care
  • Expanded learning time

In general, affordable child care has become a hot topic not only in the state, but around the country, demonstrated through increased federal support through pandemic relief bills.

“Child care is a critical component as our economy emerges from this, and we have really seen the business community, here in Michigan in particular, step up and start to lean on investments in child care,” said Gillard.

What does the future look like with more investment in children: 

  • Fewer children will experience abuse or neglect
  • Children will be better prepared for the workforce and a successful future
  • Michigan’s economy will improve
  • The number of youths in the juvenile justice system will decrease
  • Children’s mental health will improve
  • Economic and racial inequity will be reduced

Michigan Results Compared to National Results 

Compared to the national results, the Michigan results are quite similar. Voters really see children as an investment in the future, the economy and in the recovery from the pandemic.

One of the things that the poll demonstrated is stronger in Michigan than nationally is the equality and equity frame.

“Michigan really wants to provide opportunity to every child and that really unites rural Michigan and Detroit, suburban Michigan and Grand Rapids. It’s really a unifying theme across the state,” said Lake.

In addition, there is strong consensus in Michigan that not enough is being done to support children, especially post-pandemic. There is real intensity behind three forces:

  1. Children and youth falling behind because of COVID-19 learning losses
  2. Inadequate help for kids suffering from mental health problems
  3. Helping children and youth that live in households that are struggling to afford basic needs

What Next? 

While the purpose of the poll was to understand where voters are and how they feel about current and future investments in children, it is not the “what” that it is important, it’s the “how.” The path forward will be the difficult part, but the similarity in responses across demographic areas is encouraging.

“We haven’t had data or a consensus of opinion statewide around these issues to fight back on that, to say no we have to figure this out, so it works for everybody. And that’s where I hope we can build from this survey and build from this conversation,” said Gillard.

This session was sponsored by The Skillman Foundation.