Poll: Residents split on potential benefits of Foxconn

Nearly half say state paying more than plant is worth

Attendees visit the Foxconn lounge at the MMAC all-member meeting

Last updated on July 2nd, 2019 at 09:12 pm

Nearly half of respondents in a new Marquette University Law School poll say the state of Wisconsin is paying more for Foxconn’s planned LCD plant than the project is worth, but a majority also expects the plant will substantially improve the economy in the region.

Attendees visit the Foxconn lounge at the MMAC all-member meeting

The poll is Marquette’s first since Foxconn Technology Group announced plans in late July to build a $10 billion, 20 million-square-foot LCD campus in southeastern Wisconsin. It included responses from 1,200 registered voters in the Milwaukee area, including respondents in Waukesha, Ozaukee, Washington and Racine counties.

Wisconsin is offering the company $3 billion in incentives, most of which could be paid out as tax refunds after including the state’s manufacturing and agriculture tax credit.

Almost half of respondents, 48 percent, said the state is paying more than the plant is worth, while 38 percent said it will provide more benefit than what the state is paying. The state Legislative Fiscal Bureau estimated it will take 25 years for the state to generate enough tax revenue from increased economic activity to break even on the deal.

At the same time, 54 percent of respondents said the Foxconn project would substantially improve the economy in the Milwaukee area, compared to 37 percent who don’t expect an improvement.

The poll also found 65 percent of respondents don’t expect their family to directly benefit from Foxconn’s investment, compared to 29 percent who do.

The results also made clear just how partisan the Foxconn project has become with 69 percent of Democrats and Democratic leaning independents feeling the state is paying more than the project is worth. Just 25 percent of Republicans and Republican leaning independents think the state is paying too much.

Republicans are also much more optimistic about what Foxconn will mean to the region’s economy with 77 percent saying there will be a substantial benefit. Just 38 percent of Democrats feel that way.

Democrats generally don’t expect to directly benefit from the project with just 15 percent saying it will help their families. Republicans, meanwhile, were split with 48 percent expecting a direct benefit and 50 percent feeling they would see the impact directly.

The poll was released as part of the law school’s new Milwaukee Area Project, a long-term research effort of the Lubar Center. The center also held a half-day conference featuring remarks by Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, Waukesha County Executive Paul Farrow and former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak.

Other topics addressed in the poll included:

  • The status of race relations in the respondent’s community: Nearly two-thirds described them as somewhat or very good, but the same percentage, 63 percent, said relations were either somewhat or much worse than 20 years ago.
  • Views on Waukesha’s diversion of Lake Michigan water, with 63 percent in support of it.
  • 53 percent favored allowing municipalities to ask voters to approve a 1 cent sales tax increase.
  • 69 percent said the costs of the downtown Milwaukee streetcar would outweigh the benefits.

For more, check out a report from BizTimes Milwaukee media partner WISN-TV Channel 12 on the poll.

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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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