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Illinois voters evenly split on Rauner, Simon poll finds


From Illinois  Business Journal news services

Illinois voters have become more polarized about the performance of Gov. Bruce Rauner in the past year, according to the latest poll by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University.

There are 50 percent who disapprove of the job the Republican chief executive is doing while 41 percent approve. The rest were undecided.

That is a marked change of opinion in a year. After only a few months in office in 2015, there were 37 percent who approved and 31 percent who disapproved while 32 percent still didn’t know.

In other words, both his approval rating and his disapproval ratings have increased because fewer people have no opinion.

The latest poll of 1,000 registered voters was taken Feb. 15-20 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

Rauner’s worst ratings come from Chicago, where 34 percent approve and 58 percent disapprove. Opinion is more evenly divided in the suburbs, where 43 percent approve and 47 percent disapprove. Downstate, the numbers are similar: 43 percent approve and 49 percent disapprove.

“Public opinion in Illinois is deeply divided over the governor’s job performance and deeply divided on a variety of issues that are challenging the state and state government to meet the needs and expectations of the public,” observed John S. Jackson, a visiting professor at the Institute and one of the designers of the poll.

The poll also found:

– Illinois voters – an overwhelming 84 percent – say the state is on the “wrong track.” Only 9 percent say things are headed in the right direction.

– Illinois voters felt only slightly better about the direction of the country: 63 percent said the nation was going in the wrong direction and 29 percent chose “right direction.”

– Voters are much more positive about their city or local area. Half (50 percent) said things were moving in the right direction and only 42 percent chose wrong direction for their local city or area.

Asked about the overall quality of life in their local area, 51 percent rated their quality of life as “excellent” or “good.” Only 16 percent rated it as “not so good” or “poor” and 32 percent chose “average.”

Since last July, Illinois has been caught in a budget stalemate between the governor and the Democratic majority controlling the General Assembly. There are few signs of the impasse breaking soon.

The poll found that about a third, 32 percent, said they or “someone in (their) immediate family has been affected by the Illinois budget stalemate,” while 62 percent of voters didn’t feel they had been affected.

“One reason this stalemate goes on is many simply don’t feel it is effecting their lives,” said David Yepsen, director of the Institute. “Those people aren’t likely to be pressuring policy-makers to do something to break the logjam.”

“Many programs that are funded are being paid for with loans or one-time money and that can’t go on forever,” Yepsen said.

Those who said they or their families had been directly affected were asked in what specific way they had been impacted:

– 27 percent said they had lost a job or their job had been threatened by the budget impasse.

– 27 percent said they had been impacted by cuts in social services.

– Another 15 percent said they had been affected by cuts to higher education or cuts to the MAP grant program for low income students.

– 10 percent said they had been hit by child care costs or loss of services and another 10 percent said the local economy had been negatively impacted by Illinois’ budget problems.

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