It occurred to me when I was in Chicago the other day that the media furor about billionaire mogul Donald Trump’s insistence that he hang 20-foot-high letters spelling out his name on his skyscraper is pretty much the same sort of mindset behind Gov. Pat Quinn’s campaign to tag “Billionaire Bruce Rauner” as a rich, out-of-touch, right-wing white guy.
So I commissioned a poll. While a majority of those surveyed actually agree that Mr. Trump has the right to hang his letters, he’s not popular here and voters don’t think that people like him can understand regular folks.
The Capitol Fax/We Ask America poll of 1,033 likely Illinois voters found that just 38 percent have a favorable view of Trump while 42 percent have an unfavorable opinion of him. His numbers were worse in Chicago and suburban Cook County, where voters are far more Democratic and where the “giant letters” controversy has received the most media attention.
Just 23 percent of Chicagoans and 25 percent of suburban Cook County residents had a favorable view of the New York developer, compared with the 52 percent of Chicagoans and 56 percent of suburban Cook County residents who had an unfavorable view. His favorable versus unfavorable ratings among African-Americans were 27-46 and among whites 38-43. His highest favorable ratings were among Republicans 53-23, downstaters 47-34, collar county residents 44-38 and independents 43-37. The poll, conducted on June 25, had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.05 percent.
But a large majority agreed with Trump when asked: “This month, Chicago’s mayor and many others criticized Mr. Trump for placing what they called ‘garish’ 20-foot-tall letters spelling out his name on his new downtown Chicago skyscraper. Trump said it was his right to do so.”
The poll found that 61 percent of Illinoisans sided with Trump, while just 29 percent sided with Trump’s critics. Democrats were split 44-45 on the issue. African-Americans sided with Trump 47-41, as did 57 percent of Chicagoans, 56 percent of suburban Cook residents, 69 percent of collar county residents, 61 percent of downstaters, 80 percent of Republicans and 65 percent of independents.
“Despite the relatively low opinion many have of Mr. Trump, most believe he has the right to put his name in ego-sized proportion on his own building,” explained Gregg Durham, CEO of Springfield-based We Ask America, an independent subsidiary of the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association. “They’re able to separate their personal feelings about the man from the larger question concerning his rights.”
But I also wanted to test not just attitudes about Mr. Trump but people like him — as in Bruce Rauner, the Republican candidate for governor. So, we came up with this question: “Do you think that wealthy people like Mr. Trump are able to understand the problems of everyday folks?”
Just 32 percent of Illinoisans said that those people can understand regular folks, while 55 percent said they couldn’t, according to the poll.
The differences were most pronounced among Democrats, with 18 percent saying “can understand” versus 72 percent saying “cannot understand.” The split among Chicagoans was 21-63 and African-Americans at 26-58.
A plurality of Republicans, a mere 47 percent, agreed that people like Mr. Trump can understand regular folks, which probably shows you more than anything else just how ingrained this mindset is. The split was 45-44 among suburban collar county residents.
As mentioned earlier, a plurality of independents, 43 percent, had a favorable viewpoint of Mr. Trump, and a strong majority supported his right to hang those huge letters. But just 35 percent of independents said that Mr. Trump and those like him can understand their problems, while 51 percent said they can’t.
Downstaters leaned toward liking the developer and strongly supported his right to hang his letters, but a mere 27 percent said wealthy people like him can understand the problems of everyday folks, while 59 percent said they can’t.
And the same goes for whites, who didn’t care for Trump but backed his sign decision. Just 32 percent said Trump and folks like him can understand their problems, while 57 percent of whites said they cannot.
Taken in this context, it’s easy to understand Mr. Rauner’s endlessly repeated emphasis on his $18 watch and his Harley Davidson motorcycle. It also helps explain the private-equity investor’s announcement last week that he was supporting some longtime populist proposals to close several “corporate loopholes” and to slap an inheritance tax on the transfer of yachts and jets to surviving spouses.
Rauner cannot risk being “Trumped” by Gov. Quinn. On the other hand, the Democratic governor apparently believes he needs to paint his opponent as a local version of the cartoon character that Trump has become. It obviously works well here.
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