Illinois voters will go to the polls in November with a head full of steam over the state’s budget mess, according to a recent poll.
Asked to put a number to their anger about the state’s budget situation, almost two-third of registered voters rated it a four or five, with five meaning “extremely angry.”
AARP Illinois decided to conduct the survey as a way of forcing the state’s fiscal issues, which negatively effect many of its members, into the public debate ahead of state elections in November, according to AARP Illinois State Director Bob Gallo.
“There’s anger and frustration out there that candidates are [seeking] another term as governor or to be the next governor but voters aren’t hearing from them about specifically what they’re going to do to right the ship,” Gallo said.
The telephone survey was conducted July 19-30 and has a margin of error of 2.8 percentage points. It was commissioned by AARP Illinois, which advocates for the state’s elderly population. Those surveyed all were a Illinois residents who are registered to vote and were at least 25 years old. Results were then weighted by age and gender based on the state’s database of registered voters.
The results were released in the midst of a heated election for governor in which different visions about the state’s budget have taken central stage.
Democratic candidate J.B. Pritzker can take some solace from the survey’s findings about where Illinois government should look for more revenue.
Two ideas floated by Pritzker — an income tax hike for high earners and new gambling revenue — topped the list of money-making proposals. Each were supported by more than 60 percent of voters.
Fifty-eight percent of voters supported a Pritzker-backed change to the Illinois Constitution to allow a graduated income tax. A graduated income tax was supported even by a narrow majority of Republicans polled.
The least popular sources of new revenue were taxes on retirement income and increased gas or property taxes.
Gov. Bruce Rauner, the Republican incumbent, has made the prospect of high taxes driving residents out of the state a centerpiece of his campaign — a position that received some support in the survey.
The survey asked voters whether they or anyone then knew had considered moving out of the state, and 73 percent of voters said they knew someone who had considered leaving Illinois.
Among the 49 percent of respondents who said they had considered leaving, 88 percent said lower taxes in other states were the reason; that was more than any other factor.
Most Illinois voters steered a middle course. Asked to choose between new revenue and spending cuts as a way of addressing the state’s fiscal situation, 40 percent picked one of those options exclusively, while 56 percent said the state needs both.
The survey found voters in a grim mood overall; 78 percent told pollsters their personal economic situation had stagnated or gotten worse since 2015, while 84 percent said the same about Illinois’s economy overall, and 73 percent said the state was on the wrong track.
The survey suggests voters consider addressing the state’s fiscal situation important. More than 90 percent of respondents called it a serious problem, and almost two-thirds said it should be a top priority for state government in 2019.
“What surprised me about the survey is that this is broad knowledge now. People understand that the state is in crisis,” Gallo said, adding that for elected officials, “it’s longer something you can pretend isn’t there.”