Updated: Aug 31
Many issues local governments face transcend their geographic boundaries. As a result it’s important to identify areas where local leaders across communities are aligned. In collaboration with Dr. Daniel Bergan at Michigan State University, CivicPulse explored whether such alignment exists for a set of top-of-mind issues facing America today. In a recent nationally representative CivicPulse survey of local policymakers, we asked respondents to indicate their level of concern for inflation, income inequality, the opioid crisis, homelessness, and police-community relations.
Predictably, we found that Republican and Democratic officials disagree on several topics, particularly inflation and income inequality. Republicans near unanimously expressed concerns about inflation, with 90% stating they were concerned, while only 48% of Democrats said the same. Conversely, 70% of Democrats were concerned about income inequality compared to 20% of Republicans.
Unlike inflation and income inequality, however, concern for the opioid crisis was fairly bipartisan, with 65% and 58% concern from Democrats and Republicans, respectively. With both parties concerned for the epidemic this opens opportunities for bipartisan policies to address the issue in communities. For the remaining two issues, homelessness received much more concern from Democrats than Republicans, and police-community relations received similar levels of concern but only a minority of respondents from each party expressed high levels of concern.
We also investigated how concern for these five topics varied by population size. Our analysis shows that population size is associated with increased concern for income inequality, homelessness, and the opioid crisis. Even so, a majority of officials at each population size expressed high levels of concern for the opioid crisis.
In summary, whether a community is more urban or rural, or larger or smaller, local governments across the nation share a high degree of concern for addressing the opioid epidemic. This shared concern makes sense, given that the rate of fatalities from opioid overdoses is now fairly similar across urban and rural communities.
Given how divided our country is on so many issues, these facts present a unique opportunity for local communities to come together to address a major issue of our day. The opioid epidemic is both a crisis for individual communities as well as the nation as a whole. While local officials will no doubt wish to address the crisis in a way that fits their communities’ own needs, action will be most effective if they are able to cooperate across boundaries.
The research underlying this brief was built on data from a national random-sample of 1,020 elected policymakers from local governments (i.e., township, municipality, and county governments) with a population of 1,000 or more. The survey was developed in collaboration with Dr. Daniel Bergan of Michigan State University and implemented by CivicPulse.
Below is the question wording for the survey item that was used:
How concerned are you with the following issues? (Not at all concerned, Not very concerned, Somewhat concerned, Very concerned, and Extremely concerned.)
Nathan Lee, PhD
Managing Director of CivicPulse