CARBONDALE – Consistent with a trend beginning in 2009, a recent poll conducted by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University found that a slowly growing number of Illinois voters do not see a series of proposed budget and spending cuts as affecting them directly.
The questionnaire, which surveyed 1,000 random registered voters in Illinois via telephone, found that 62 percent of respondents said the cuts would have no impact on their lives, while 34 percent claimed they would feel repercussions personally. The poll was taken in the last week of September into October and has an announced margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
For those answering that cuts would cause upheaval in their lives, the largest segment of them reported that such budgetary actions by Springfield would lead to the loss of their job, while the second largest segment feared reduced funds from the state capitol would further weaken social services and educational support.
The fact that a minority of voters expressed a direct impact from cuts startled David Yepsen, the director of the Paul Simon Policy Institute.
“I’m surprised more people aren’t feeling affected by this deadlock in Springfield," Yepsen said. "I thought the numbers of people impacted would be increasing as it wore on but it’s also true many people aren’t impacted by changes in government services.”
A colleague of Yepsen’s, Dr. Linda Baker, was not so sure of voter indifference.
“Illinoisans are aware that the budget crisis is no longer an abstract question, but instead something that is growing in significance and having an effect on the state's ability to attract and retain businesses and residents,” Baker said.
An interesting takeaway from the poll was the discovery that an increasing number of voters were supportive of the idea of budget cuts and tax increases as a way of fixing the state's fiscal mess.
The majority of respondents said budget cuts were the sole answer (44 percent), while only a slim minority (12 percent) said higher taxes alone would do it, but those advocating a mixing of both had grown to 33 percent, from a previously polled 27 percent.
Baker viewed this finding optimistically.
"One hopeful finding is the increased percentage of Illinoisans who see the solution as a mix of both budget cuts and increasing revenues,"she said. "Hopefully this can help spur policymakers on both sides of the aisle to consider a compromise that includes solutions offered by both parties.”