Belief in the Foxconn project is at its lowest level yet in MU Law School poll

The percentage of voters who expect Foxconn Technology Group’s Mount Pleasant plant to live up to the incentives being offered by Wisconsin reached its lowest level in the Marquette Law School since the project was announced.

The poll has asked voters about the project 10 times since 2017. The question notes that the company plans to employ 13,000 people and the state is offering up to $3 billion in incentives before asking voters if they think the plant will “ultimately provide this much or more benefit or is the state paying more than the plant is worth.”

In the latest version of the poll, 35% of respondents said the plant would eventually provide enough value, down from 41% the last time the question was asked and the lowest level to date.

Meanwhile, 46% of respondents said the state is paying too much for the plant.

The result is the fourth time the gap between those who think the state is paying too much and those who expect to see enough of a benefit has reached double digits. The last time was in early October 2018 along with the first two times the question was asked in October 2017 and February 2018.

Foxconn’s plans for its Wisconsin project have continued to evolve since they were originally announced. Pitched as a 22 million-square-foot LCD panel manufacturing campus that would make massive screens in the summer of 2017, the company shifted gears in 2018 to smaller plant that would make smaller screens and provide additional flexibility.

In early 2019, the company re-evaluated its Wisconsin plans. At one point, executives seemed to suggest the company wouldn’t build a factory in Wisconsin before eventually committing to one. Foxconn’s latest business plans emphasize utilizing technology to build new business lines, generate revenue and eventually create the jobs promised as part of a 2017 contract with the state of Wisconsin.

Support for the project has changed in a number of areas compared to a late October 2018 Marquette poll when Foxconn enjoyed its highest level of voter support.

While a majority of Republicans and Republican leaning independents continue to expect the project to pay off in the long run, their net support for the project (the percent who think the state is paying too much subtracted from the number who expect a benefit) is down by 30 percentage points.

Likewise, Democrats and Democratic leaning independents remain bearish about the project, but their support has eroded further with the net rating down 14 points.

The view of those who consider themselves truly independent has improved, primarily thanks to a drop in the number who think the state is paying too much.

Views of the project in the city of Milwaukee remained slightly negative, essentially unchanged from the October 2018 poll. Voters in the rest of the Milwaukee media market, along with Madison and Green Bay turned slightly more negative.

Voters outside those markets, however, turned dramatically more negative with a majority now feeling the state is paying too much.

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Arthur Thomas
Arthur covers banking and finance and the economy at BizTimes while also leading special projects as an associate editor. He also spent five years covering manufacturing at BizTimes. He previously was managing editor at The Waukesha Freeman. He is a graduate of Carroll University and did graduate coursework at Marquette. A native of southeastern Wisconsin, he is also a nationally certified gymnastics judge and enjoys golf on the weekends.

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