Greater Milwaukee realtors poll: Crime, quality of life top concerns

A new survey conducted by the Greater Milwaukee Association of Realtors (GMAR) identified the top concerns of voters leading into the spring general election – in which a new mayor will be elected for the first time since 2004.

The survey among 400 registered Milwaukee voters was conducted March 10-14. It found the majority is worried about the direction in which the city is headed.

The GMAR hopes whoever takes over at City Hall will use this data for positive change.

Like a streetcar rolling through downtown Milwaukee, voters say they're ready for the city to hop back on track.

"I think what was most surprising to me was how negative people were about the quality of life in the city," said Joe Goode, CEO of American Strategies. 

American Strategies, a D.C.-based company that specializes in political polling, surveyed 400 Milwaukee voters by phone over four days, and 60% said the quality of life in Milwaukee is fair or poor while 40% scored it as good or excellent.

Goode says that result is tied to a few issues – mainly crime.

"By far, it's the number one issue that voters want the mayor and city council to focus on," said Goode.

 

The results show 75% said the problem of crime in Milwaukee is extremely serious or very serious, while 42% said they're confident in the Milwaukee Police Department's ability to protect citizens from crime.

"I think voters are open to any type of solutions here, and they're certainly willing to put more money into the police department just to see if that will help," said Goode.

Support for public safety improvements appears united, but voters were divided on the future of Milwaukee Public Schools, as 73% gave MPS a C, D or F grade. The question of splitting the district into smaller ones was also met with split answers.

Cavalier Johnson, Bob Donovan

"Fifty-two percent were in favor of that, but 40% were also opposed to it," said Goode.

The GMAR will use the data to guide its public policy decisions moving forward. The president said both Bob Donovan and Cavalier Johnson, the two candidates for Milwaukee mayor, were made aware of the results.

Survey summary

The GMAR release said Milwaukee voters are in a sour mood heading into the 2022 mayoral elections. Most feel that the city is off on the wrong track, that its quality of life and economy is only fair or poor, and give city schools a grade of "C" or less. On top of all these concerns, three-quarters say crime is either a very or extremely serious problem in the city. 

  • City on the wrong track. A majority (56%) say that Milwaukee is off on the wrong track; just 31% feel that the city is headed in the right direction.
  • Quality of life just fair or poor. Most voters rate the quality of life in Milwaukee as just fair (38%) or poor (22%). Only 29% feel that the quality of life will get better over the next three years.
  • Crime dominates issue agenda. Nearly half (48%) say crime is the most important issue for the Mayor and City Government to focus on; three quarters say that crime in Milwaukee is either an extremely serious (39%) or very serious (36%) problem. While crime tops the list of city concerns, many voters have little confidence in the ability of Milwaukee police to protect them from crime: only 42% have quite a lot or a great deal of confidence in the police. Most do not have very much confidence (44%) or no confidence at all (12%). Despite the lack of confidence in the police, 60% would like to see city spending on policing increased by either a little (26%) or a lot (33%).
  • While crime tops the list of city concerns, many voters have little confidence in the ability of Milwaukee police to protect them from crime: only 42% have quite a lot or a great deal of confidence in the police. Most do not have very much confidence (44%) or no confidence at all (12%).
  • Despite the lack of confidence in the police, 60% would like to see city spending on policing increased by either a little (26%) or a lot (33%).
  • Economy not performing. Voters rate economic conditions in Milwaukee as only fair (54%) or poor (25%). Just 20% rate the economy positively. Half say their family’s income is falling behind the cost of living. Fifty percent say that the cost of housing is a very big or fairly big problem; another 28% call it a moderate problem. While a strong majority (60%) believe that there are plenty of jobs available in the city, half say that the lack of public transit options is either a big reason (37%) or a small reason (14%) why some people can’t find a job or keep a job.
  • Half say their family’s income is falling behind the cost of living.
  • Fifty percent say that the cost of housing is a very big or fairly big problem; another 28% call it a moderate problem.
  • While a strong majority (60%) believe that there are plenty of jobs available in the city, half say that the lack of public transit options is either a big reason (37%) or a small reason (14%) why some people can’t find a job or keep a job.
  • Most give low grades to Milwaukee public schools. When asked to grade overall public education in Milwaukee, grades of C (37%), D (18%) and F (18%) dominate. Just one-in-five give the schools a B (18%) or an A (4%). Putting the mayor in charge of public education lacks support: just 29% favor the idea and 59% are opposed. Breaking the city into smaller school districts has somewhat more support, but is divisive: 52% favor separating the city into smaller school districts but 40% are opposed.
  • Putting the mayor in charge of public education lacks support: just 29% favor the idea and 59% are opposed.
  • Breaking the city into smaller school districts has somewhat more support, but is divisive: 52% favor separating the city into smaller school districts but 40% are opposed.
  • Strong support for legalizing marijuana use. Seventy percent favor making marijuana use legal in the city of Milwaukee. Half strongly favor the idea; just 28% are opposed.

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