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Don't know where presidential candidates stand on issues that matter to Michigan? Start here

This image contains 5 separate smaller images within it. Each image is a head shot of a presidential candidate. Two of the images are larger than the other three and are at the top of the image. Those images contain Donald Trump and Joe Biden. The other primary candidates (Dean Phillips, Nikki Haley, Ryan Binkley) are all in similarly sized smaller images lined up at the bottom.
All candidate images come from their respective campaigns. Collage by Adam Yahya Rayes
Michigan Public

Michigan faces many issues that the next U.S. president could help fix – or make worse.

The state’s voters will get a chance to make their voices heard in upcoming presidential primaries on February 27.

Michigan Public is zooming in on five topics that could be a particularly big deal for this state: electric vehicles, affordable housing, foreign investment, infrastructure, and PFAS contamination.

We spoke to people across Michigan about the kind of federal leadership they want on these issues.

Here’s what we know about the way candidates from both major parties may address these concerns based on their speeches, campaign statements, past actions and more:

PFAS is a family of man-made chemicals linked to human health problems, including cancers.

These “forever chemicals” have been used in many products from non-stick pans to firefighting foam.

Michigan has identified more than 11,000 potential PFAS contamination sites, including car washes, oil refineries, and military bases. Sometimes, the chemicals get into drinking water.

In a 2020 poll by the Center for Michigan, 87% of 2,000 Michigan residents surveyed said the federal government should set a safety standard for PFAS in drinking water, and 78% said the federal government should increase efforts to respond to contamination.

Affordable housing is getting harder and harder to find in Michigan.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer wants the state to spend over $1 billion to incentivize construction and renovation of 10,000 housing units.

The Michigan State Housing Development Authority says Michigan needs more new housing units than that – nearly 20 times more.

At least 20% of Michigan adults were unable to keep up with rent or mortgage payments and faced possible eviction or foreclosure between January and October 2023, according to averaged estimates from a series of 11 two-week surveys conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Foreign investment has been a controversial topic lately. Last year, residents of Big Rapids rallied against plans by a Chinese company to build a $2.4 billion battery manufacturing plant in their rural west Michigan community.

Opposition to foreign investment falls into several camps: specific opposition to Chinese firms, frustration with government incentives for green companies, and concern about potential environmental impacts.

Advocates of foreign investment argue it bolsters Michigan’s economy and creates jobs.

As of 2020, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation said more than 1,000 foreign businesses had invested in more than 5,000 locations across the state.

Electric vehicles are driving the debate in 2024. Last year was a record high for U.S. EV sales. But the growth has been slowing.

Federal efforts to invest in and push an EV transition are needed, proponents say, to reduce the environmental damage caused by emissions from gas-powered cars.

Opposition to federal EV mandates and tax credits is growing, especially among car dealers who say customers aren’t interested enough due to cost, limited range, and lackluster charging infrastructure.

In a March 2023 Detroit Regional Chamber poll, 46% of 600 registered Michigan voters said they support automakers shifting to EVs, while 44% were opposed.

Michigan’s infrastructure is struggling. One example: aging stormwater systems can’t handle the amount of water dumped by increasingly powerful storms in recent years.

Dearborn saw the effect of that in 2021, when stormwater flooded homes and covered streets for days.

The American Society of Civil Engineers gave Michigan’s stormwater systems a “D” last year. The state’s other infrastructure, including bridges, dams, and railways, all got “C” grades or lower.

About 66% of 600 registered Michigan voters said they want the state to invest in infrastructure and education instead of cutting taxes, according to a December 2023 Detroit Regional Chamber poll.

There are definitely a lot of other issues that matter to Michigan voters as well. There are plenty of great guides from national news outlets on candidate positions on topics like abortion, education, voting rights, and immigration policy.

Large sets of numbers add up to peoples’ stories. As Michigan Public’s Data Reporter, Adam Yahya Rayes seeks to sift through noisy digits to put the individuals and policies that make up our communities into perspective.
Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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