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Cost of living tops Detroiters’ priorities for US government

Contact: Lauren Slagter, lslag@umich.edu

With Michigan poised to be a pivotal state in the 2024 presidential election, Detroiters have weighed in on their priorities for the U.S. government.

Cost of living and inflation is the issue Detroiters mentioned most when asked about the top issues they want the U.S. government to address, according to a new report from the University of Michigan’s Detroit Metro Area Communities Study, with support from Poverty Solutions.

DMACS partnered with Outlier Media to survey 1,100 Detroit residents in April about their intentions to vote and priorities for the government in 2024. Information about Detroiters’ priorities was collected via open-ended questions, so residents responded in their own words without the limitations of a set of response options. Survey results were weighted to reflect the city’s population as a whole.

The survey found that 20% of Detroit households cited cost of living and inflation as one of the top two priorities for federal government officials, and survey respondents called for federal action to: “bring prices back down,” “regulate the price of food, gas, utilities,” and “lower prices on groceries and gas.”

Crime and safety was the next most frequently mentioned broad issue that Detroiters want U.S. federal officials to address, with 14.8% citing it as one of their top two priorities. Health care came in third, with 14.5% of Detroiters indicating that health care access or quality should be a top priority for the U.S. government. People mentioned the need for “universal health care,” “great health care for all without red tape,” and “(better support and services for) mental health.”

Mara Ostfeld

“Detroit is the largest city in Michigan and will have significant influence over the state’s election outcomes for the presidential race as well as filling the U.S. Senate seat previously held by Debbie Stabenow,” said Mara Ostfeld, a faculty lead for DMACS. “It’s crucial to understand what Detroiters are looking for from the federal government right now.”

The survey found large gaps in the importance assigned to different issues across ethnoracial groups. Cost of living and inflation is the most frequently mentioned issue for the U.S. government to address among Black (20%) and Latino Detroiters (26%), compared to 11% of white Detroiters. For white Detroiters, health care is the most frequently mentioned issue (24%); health care was also a top priority for 23% of Latino residents, compared to 12% of Black residents.

Donna Givens Davidson

“Detroiters want neighborhood sustainability, economic development and a say in their communities. The federal government has an obligation to be responsive to the clear priorities laid out by Detroit residents,” said Donna Givens Davidson, president and CEO of the Eastside Community Network, which develops people, places and plans for sustainable growth on Detroit’s east side.

Looking at priorities for the U.S. government by Detroiters’ income level, cost of living and inflation remained a top priority across income groups.

“It may be counterintuitive, but Detroiters with higher household incomes were no less likely to mention cost of living and inflation as a top priority for U.S. elected officials than Detroiters with lower household incomes,” said DMACS data manager Yucheng Fan. “We saw more variation across income levels in the degree of importance placed on homelessness, crime and safety, quality jobs, and housing

Yucheng Fan

Eleven percent of Detroiters with annual household incomes of less than $30,000 listed homelessness as one of their top priorities for the U.S. government to address, compared to 4% of Detroiters with annual household incomes above $30,000.

Crime and safety, quality jobs and housing are far less likely to be viewed as top issues for the U.S. government to address among higher-income Detroiters, relative to those with lower annual household incomes.

Looking at priorities by age group, equal shares of Detroiters 65 and older (14%) want the U.S. government to prioritize addressing border and immigration policy, health care, crime and safety, and cost of living and inflation.

Among Detroiters under 65, the cost of living and inflation stood apart as the issue mentioned more than any other, with 23% of people under 40 and 21% of people aged 40-64 saying it’s a top priority.