The More Information Voters Have the Less They Support Film Subsidies

Majority of respondents want film money to go to roads

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy and the Michigan Chamber of Commerce last week released top-line results of a jointly commissioned poll by Mitchell Research of 600 likely voters on the subject of Michigan’s film incentive program. This program gives subsidies to people who produce movies in our state, like the upcoming Batman v Superman.

The results of the poll indicate that the more information a voter has about Michigan’s film incentive program the less appealing it appears. Our first question was the most open-ended, our last was the least so. With each succeeding question support for the film subsidy drops. The poll had a margin of error of + or – four percent.

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  1. Based on what you’ve heard or read about the topic, which of the following two statements do you believe best describes your opinion:

A. “Michigan’s film industry jobs are worth the cost of film incentives.” (40%)

                    or

B. Michigan’s film subsidy program is actually a net loss for state taxpayers and not worth the cost of the incentives. (37%)

C. Volunteered/Don’t know/Refused (23%)

  1. Based on what you’ve heard or read about the topic, which of the following do you believe best describes your opinion:

A. The state should continue subsidizing the film industry (40%)   

                         or        

B. The state should stop subsidizing the film industry (50%)

C. Volunteered/Don’t know/Refused (10%)                    

3.  Based on what you’ve heard or read about the topic, which of the following do you believe best describes your opinion:

A.  The state should continue to spend $50 million annually subsidizing the film industry (29%)

                    or

B.  The state should stop spending $50 million annually subsidizing the film industry (60%)                                                                      

C. Volunteered/Don’t know/Refused (11%)

  1. Do you strongly support, somewhat support, somewhat oppose, or strongly oppose having the Legislature use the $50 million that was going to go to film subsidies to pay for road improvements instead?             
Strongly support 48%
Somewhat support 18%
Somewhat oppose 8%
Strongly oppose 17%
Volunteered/Don't Know/Refused 10%

In other words, this last question indicates that 66 percent of voters would strongly or somewhat support the redirection of film subsidy dollars to roads while only 25 percent would strongly or somewhat oppose such a change.

The Legislature may have gotten this message. The Detroit News has reported that just this week a House-Senate conference committee voted to halve the subsidy and use $19 million of the remaining dollars to pay bond debt and repay some revenues taken from the Michigan Employment Retirement Systems on a troubled studio deal.

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy and the Michigan Chamber of Commerce have been two of the earliest and most consistent opponents of Michigan’s film incentive program.

(Author’s note: For a convenient explanation of why the film subsidy — and other industrial welfare programs — is not successful, see page four of the Mackinac Center Policy Brief, “Special Effects: Flawed Report on Film Incentive Provides Distorted Lens.”)