UWM survey finds fading optimism on state economy

The modicum of optimism about the future performance of the state’s economy only three months ago has eroded, according to a quarterly survey conducted by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Center for Urban Initiatives and Research (CUIR).  

The Wisconsin Economic Scorecard, a new poll of Wisconsin residents that made its debut in March, measures perceptions of the health of Wisconsin’s economy as well as personal economic circumstances of Wisconsin residents. The survey is done in cooperation with Milwaukee public radio station WUWM and WisBusiness.com.

But the survey also shows that more Wisconsin residents believe the state is headed “in the right direction” (51.1%) rather than being “on the wrong track” (41.9%), compared to the even split on this question in March.

“The strongest influence on the perceived direction of the state is political ideology,” says Joe Cera, a researcher and manager of the CUIR Survey Center at UWM. “About 7 in 10 Democrats reported feeling that the state is ‘on the wrong track,’ while 9 of 10 Republicans said that the state is ‘headed in the right direction.’ Those who described themselves as politically independent (about 49% of respondents) were about evenly split on the question.”

The survey also included a gauge of how residents view the new federal health care law, the Affordable Care Act, with opinions also split along the respondents’ political affiliations.

Other findings include:

  • In March, 45.3% of those surveyed said the state economy would “get better” over the next year. Since then, the percentage answering “get better” has decreased to 39.7%, while 42.7% say the state economy will “stay about the same” over the next year. Those expecting the economy to “get worse” has risen from 12.3% to 14.6% since last quarter.
  • Most Wisconsin residents rate the current state economy as “fair” (51.9%) or “poor” (25.7%). These figures are unchanged from the previous quarter.
  • Residents once again cite “unemployment/jobs” as the most important economic issue facing the state, with 51.3% of responses falling into that category. “Health care” (5.8%) and “taxes” (4.6%) are the second and third most frequently cited issues.
  • Most residents rate their personal finances as “good” (39.8%) or “fair” (33.8%). However, about half (51.2%) report having experienced at least one of the following major financial problems over the last six months: affording rent or mortgage; keeping a job; getting a loan or credit; saving or paying for retirement; paying for utilities. That figure is slightly up from March’s results.
  • Following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act, 44% of Wisconsin residents think the act will hurt the state economy in the long run; just over 33% think it will help. When it comes to the act’s impact on personal health care costs, most respondents believe that they would not be affected (43.3%).

The poll was a random digit dialing telephone survey of 594 Wisconsin residents from July 9-12. The margin of error is 4.0 percent. For more information, and to download a PDF of the report, visit www.wisconsineconomicscorecard.org. And see coverage at WUWM Milwaukee Public Radio.