Where do local governments stand on infrastructure legislation? A new report by CivicPulse explores.

A new CivicPulse survey of local policymakers reveals strong support for roads, water, electricity, and broadband but disagreement on mass transit and clean energy.

A new CivicPulse survey of local government policymakers shows that their highest priorities for a new infrastructure bill would be funding for roads and bridges, as well as water and wastewater projects. These two priority areas had near universal support from local officials. There was also strong support for the electricity grid and broadband, with over 70% of policymakers favoring the inclusion of these items in a potential bill.

CivicPulse, in partnership with Stanford University’s Bill Lane Center for the American West and the media outlet Route Fifty, surveyed 413 local government elected officials from across the country in May 2021. The survey included top elected officials and governing board members from a representative sample of counties, municipalities, and townships with populations of 1,000 residents or more.

Policymakers from the Western states were in alignment with other regions, with the highest ranked priorities being funding to support transportation, water, broadband, and the electricity grid. Officials in the West and the Northeast did have the highest level of support for electric vehicle infrastructure, although even in those regions, fewer than 50% of policymakers supported including funding for it in a possible infrastructure bill.

“When considering what should be included in an infrastructure bill, it is important that we understand what local policymakers around the country are prioritizing. These officials, after all, will be the ones spending much of the money that is allocated, and it will fall to them to ensure whatever projects are initiated are maintained for the long run,” said Nathan Lee, Managing Director of CivicPulse and a professor in the Department of Public Policy at the Rochester Institute of Technology.  “While it was not surprising that roads and bridges ranked so highly, we were surprised by the amount of bipartisan support for new investments in water, electricity, and broadband expansion.”

While there was little regional variation, there were strong splits along partisan lines. The largest partisan split was in favor of funding for clean energy, with over 90% of Democratic policymakers favoring its inclusion compared to less than 30% of Republican policymakers. Other large gaps of support were found in affordable housing, mass transit, and electric vehicle infrastructure, with Democrats expressing more support for funding.

The report also asked policymakers what they consider to be important when thinking about infrastructure and found that public safety was the number one issue, followed by business development. The lowest ranking issues, considered to be very important by the fewest number of policymakers, were economic inequality and social equity. Although even these low-ranking issues were considered very important by over 40% of policymakers.

As of June 2021, Federal lawmakers are in negotiations about what to include in a potential infrastructure bill that could invest billions of dollars into communities and projects around the United States. To date, Democratic and Republican lawmakers have not been able to reach a compromise regarding the size and scope of a potential spending bill. As talks continue at the national level, this new CivicPulse report will provide a benchmark for federal policymakers to understand the priorities of the local governments who will play a critical role in realizing whatever deal is ultimately made.

More information on the survey and results can be found in the full report at: https://www.civicpulse.org/infrastructure.

CivicPulse is a nonpartisan, nonprofit research organization that runs a national survey platform of local government officials. Our mission is to enhance local government through shared data and research. To learn more about our work, please visit civicpulse.org. 

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