Poll: 4 of 5 voters think Illinois on wrong track

By Cole Lauterbach, Illinois News Network | Mar 9, 2018

A new poll shows Illinoisans are upset with just about all things political.

The Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University – Carbondale asked 1,000 Illinois voters if they thought the state was moving in the right direction.

Eighty-four percent of voters said they thought the state was on the wrong path while nine percent were satisfied with the state's trajectory. Their feelings about the nation as a whole were slightly more optimistic, with 27 percent choosing the right track option while a total of 64 percent chose wrong direction. Another 9 percent said they didn't know.

Institute director John Shaw said the discontentment in Illinois was greater than any other state.

“It would be hard to overstate just how angry, frustrated and disgruntled Illinois citizens are with their government,” he said. “More than four out of five say that the state is headed in the wrong direction. Those are numbers you don’t find in many democracies.”

It's not a new trend.

“Voters have been more negative about the state of Illinois than the rest of the country since the inception of our poll in 2008,” said Charlie Leonard, an institute visiting professor and one of the designers of the poll.

President Donald Trump and Gov. Bruce Rauner both have low approval ratings, but long-time House Speaker Michael Madigan is lower still, with a 21 percent approval rate.

“When we started these polls in 2008, Madigan was actually seen in a positive light,” SIU Professor John Jackson said. “The governor and those who support the governor have made Madigan public enemy number one.”

When asked about their opinion of Congress' recent tax code overhaul, 53 percent of Illinois voters said they opposed the tax cut with 15 percent strongly opposed and 38 percent opposed, while 2 percent responded “neither.” The question was largely split down party lines, with 80 percent of Democrats opposed and 75 percent of Republicans in support of the tax law changes.

One thing that voters were high on was the legalization of recreational marijuana. On a question asking if they favored or opposed “the legalization of recreational marijuana if it is taxed and regulated like alcohol,” the poll found 66 percent favored it. Democrats led the way on this one with 78 percent support while Republicans were split at 49 percent support and 49 percent in opposition. 

Jackson said some of voters' attitudes toward their state can be attributed to negative political messaging.

The polls found:

  • President Trump’s job approval was 36 percent positive and 62 percent negative.
  • Gov. Rauner’s total positive rate was 31 percent with 63 percent negative.
  • Speaker Madigan had a 21 percent approval rate and a 68 percent disapproval rate.
  • Two-thirds of the voters favored legalizing recreational marijuana.
  • Eighty-five percent of voters want lawmakers to wait a year after they resign before becoming a lobbyist.
  • A majority of voters, 54 percent, said their local government was moving in the right direction, while 37 percent said the wrong direction and 10 percent didn’t know.
The institute found in a 2016 poll that more than half of Illinoisans would move out of the state if they could. Their top reason: High taxes.

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Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan Illinois News Network Paul Simon Public Policy Institute

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