A Primer on the 2018 Elections in 9 Charts
As Michiganders head to the polls, we know the economy and health care are critical issues for voters on both sides of the aisle. Taking these two issues into account, we analyzed state and national data paired with survey data of small business owners to get a deeper understanding of how small business owners are approaching the upcoming election.
Current Trends in Michigan’s Economy
Michigan’s economy has climbed out of the hole it entered in the Great Recession and has since continued on a strong upward trajectory. The state GDP is now 25.8 percent bigger than in 2007. The state has also grown its real GDP per capita by 2 percent over the last year, 0.7 percentage points more than the country as a whole and now stands at $44,201. It’s now outpaced the US overall on growth in real GDP per capita in 7 out of the past 8 years.
Similarly, unemployment in Michigan stands at an 18-year low of 4.0 percent. And over the past twelve months, the state has added over 63,000 jobs, 25,000 more than the previous year. This reflects the national trend of steadily declining unemployment rates. The country is now at record low unemployment, at just 3.7 percent.
This strength in the labor market has also led to strong improvements in employee earnings in Michigan. The opposite was true for much of 2016: private sector wages in August 2016 were actually down 2 percent from the prior year. Since then, though, wages in the state have grown considerably. Today, private sector wages in the state stand at an average of $26.00, which is up 5.26 percent from this time last year, when they were $24.70. Despite this recent growth, though, the state’s average wage is about $1.25 / hour less than the national average.
Overall, this recent growth has many individuals, especially those in the small business community, feeling fairly positive about the state’s economy. We discovered this by asking small business operators how they’re feeling about the state’s economy and the top policy issues they’re focused on this November. Through this survey of small business owners in Michigan that we ran over the past four months (n = 177, with a margin of error 7.4 percentage points), we heard bullish views on the state’s economy. Forty-four percent of respondents from Michigan told us that they expect business conditions in their community to be “a little” or “much better” in the coming three months, though that’s 6 percentage points lower than the national average. Small business owners in Michigan are also about as likely as their counterparts elsewhere to say that the economy there has improved over the past year.
Not all measures of the state’s economy are painting as rosy of a picture, though. Looking at the level of new business starts in the state shows some remaining softness in Michigan’s economy. Although there were 1,271 more firms started than firms that died in 2016 (the latest available year of data), that’s still only 38 percent of the amount of net business creation that the state had in 2005, when the state’s economy was 19 percent smaller in real terms. To be fair, though, declining entrepreneurship is not just an issue that’s affecting Michigan: business starts have slowed down nationwide.
A final factor to consider about how small business owners in Michigan are feeling about the state’s economy is that many of them feel like they’re not the state government’s priority. Sixty-two percent say their government cares more about attracting and supporting new corporations than supporting local small businesses.
The Importance of Health Care to the Small Business Voter
The economy is unlikely to be the only or leading factor influencing how individuals vote. Nearly as many small business voters in Michigan cite health care as an issue that’s at the top of their priorities this year.
In Michigan, 65 percent of small business owners report disapproving of President Trump’s handling of health care. That’s a bigger difference than on economic policy, where the split between approval and disapproval of the president’s handling is almost even (49 percent approve while 51 percent disapprove). Unsurprisingly, Republican voters largely approve of President Trump’s handling of both health care and the economy, while Democratic voters disapprove.
When it comes to health care, most Michiganders (63%) are supportive of the Affordable Care Act, specifically, and its key provisions:
- 72 percent support the expansion of Medicaid in Michigan
- 63 percent support the rules that prohibit insurance companies from denying coverage to patients with pre-existing conditions
- 81 percent support making subsidies for health insurance available to low-income Americans
- 77 percent support allowing adults under 26 to stay on their parents’ health insurance plan
This data provides an important perspective on small business voters’ priorities for the upcoming election, as they have a personal and real-time pulse on what’s happening with Michigan’s economy and the core issues affecting working families.
These data were collected from government economic sources and via the Thumbtack Economic Sentiment Survey, which captures the attitudes and perspectives of thousands of business owners from across the country every month to gauge how they are feeling about the economy and their businesses. Now in its sixth year, this survey provides a unique vantage point on the economy, as respondents are largely mobile service professionals with five or fewer employees who operate across the United States. Because they are hard to reach, these professionals are frequently overlooked in other surveys of small businesses. Note: percentages for individual graphics may not round to 100 due to rounding.