Poll shows voters link legal reform to economic improvement: Blagojevich support softening

Ann Knef Sep. 13, 2005, 6:34am

Lisa Rickard

Ed Murnane

The economy and lawsuit abuse are tainting the moods of Illinois voters.

And if results of a recent poll commissioned by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute of Legal Reform (ILR) are any indication, Governor Rod Blagojevich could face a brutal re-election bid next year as his support softens.

"Voters are decidedly negative about the direction of the state in general and the future of the economy," according to the ILR which released the poll on Tuesday. It was conducted by Public Opinion Strategies in August among 600 likely Illinois voters.

"They perceive lawsuits as a contributing factor in Illinois' economic problems, and believe lawsuit reform would help strengthen the state's economy and attract jobs."

Among the findings:

  • Illinois voters place the economy as one of their top priorities and say the economy is getting worse.

    Voter's concerns over improving public schools and making health care more affordable are close in importance, according to the poll.

    Thirty-seven percent of voters said the economy is getting worse, compared to only 12 percent who thought it was getting better. Forty-eight percent believe it is staying the same.

  • A majority of voters disapprove of the job the governor is doing handling the economy.

    While voters are evenly divided in opinion over Blagojevich's job as governor--49 percent approve and 49 percent disapprove--they are more negative in their views of his economic performance. Only 46 percent approve and a majority 51 percent disapprove.

  • Voters link lawsuit reform with economic improvement.

    "Changing the current lawsuit system to reduce the number of frivolous lawsuits (47 percent)" was ranked second after "Improving Illinois' public schools and universities so graduates have the skills companies need (59 percent)," by respondents who were asked to rate measures to strengthen the economy.

    Tax incentives (44 percent) and reducing government regulations on companies doing business in Illinois (25 percent) were ranked third and fourth.

  • Approximately three-quarters of state voters believe lawsuits are an important factor in the economic problems plaguing the state.

    "These findings provide strong evidence that, while recently-enacted medical liability reforms are a good step forward, Illinois voters overwhelmingly feel that Governor Blagojevich and the state legislature need to finish the job by passing more lawsuit reform," said ILR President Lisa Rickard.

    The poll was conducted to determine likely voters’ views on the state of the Illinois economy, and the effect of lawsuit abuse on the state’s ongoing jobs crisis, according to the ILR.

    Illinois Civil Justice League President Ed Murnane said results were not "surprising."

    "The public does understand that frivolous, excessive and abusive litigation has an adverse impact on the economy and job creation," said Murnane. "We know the impact it has had on health care."

    "It's encouraging for us," said Murnane. "We'll continue our efforts in the legislature and at the ballot box."

    Other findings suggest Blagojevich's support may be in jeopardy if former Governor Jim Edgar becomes a challenger:

  • Only 34 percent of voters believe that things in Illinois are headed in the right direction.

  • Blagojevich's unfavorable rating was 46 percent, while only 41 percent of voters registered a favorable rating.

  • Edgar holds a commanding lead over Blagojevich, 50 percent to 36 percent.

  • Among Independent voters, Edgar is solidly ahead by a margin of 56 percent to Blagojevich's 17 percent.

    The poll has a four percent margin of error.

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