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Poll: Rauner, sugar unpopular here

Monday, Mar 6, 2017

* My weekly syndicated newspaper column

According to a recent poll, Gov. Bruce Rauner is a whole lot less popular than a one cent per ounce state sales tax on sugary drinks.

The poll of 800 registered voters taken February 15-20 for the American Heart Association found that Rauner is backed by just 32 percent against an unnamed Democrat, who would receive 47 percent. But a new penny per ounce tax on sugary drinks is actually supported by a majority of those polled, 56 percent, compared to 41 percent who oppose it.

“In the 2018 election for governor,” the Democratic pollster Anzalone Liszt Grove Research asked, “are you more likely to vote for the Democratic candidate or Republican Bruce Rauner?” 42 percent said they were more likely to vote for the unnamed Democratic candidate and another 5 percent said they leaned that direction, for a total of 47.

And now you know why the governor deposited $50 million in his campaign fund late last year.

Rauner’s dismal rating shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. He’s gone two years without many accomplishments and without passing, or even proposing a “real” budget. The 15-point Democratic margin is about the same margin that Hillary Clinton won Illinois by just a few months ago. The electorate may well be different by the time 2018 rolls around. Also, an actual named candidate could do worse against Rauner. You can’t beat somebody with nobody.

The governor and his people have been saying for weeks that a tax on sugary drinks was only unpopular under the Statehouse dome with lobbyists and legislators. The two Senate leaders have said there is no way they can round up enough votes to include the tax hike in their grand bargain package, however. The Heart Association has been running a huge national ad campaign against sugar itself, and the issue appears to have caught fire.

The penny per ounce tax is backed by 62 percent of Democrats, 50 percent of Republicans and 51 percent of independents, according to the pollster. It’s supported by 60 percent of Chicagoans, even though Cook County just instituted its own penny per ounce tax. 53 percent of suburban residents and 51 percent of Downstaters support the tax. 54 percent of whites, 54 percent of African-Americans and 71 percent of Latinos back the plan, according to the poll. And after being read both positive and negative statements about the penny per ounce sugary drinks tax, support actually rose to 67 percent versus 32 percent in opposition. The poll’s margin of error is +/-3.5 percent.

The poll also revealed that the public may be as divided about the budget as many rank and file lawmakers. When asked whether they preferred to continue along the same budgetary path without raising taxes, 38 percent agreed, while just 44 percent said they supported “Fixing the state’s budget with tax increases as part of that fix.” 18 percent either didn’t know or refused to answer.

Just 4 percent said that raising taxes without spending cuts is the right way to go, while 35 percent said they prefer cutting spending with no tax hikes and 58 percent said they favored a mix of both spending cuts and tax hikes.

But not a single tax hike except the sugary drinks tax is supported, and a look at those poll results gives you a good idea why crafting and then passing a solution to this state’s horribly vexing dilemma is so darned difficult.

For example, a plan to raise the state income tax from its current level of 3.75 percent to 4.99 percent is opposed by 66 percent, with 49 percent strongly opposed. Just 31 percent support that income tax hike, which is the backbone of the Senate’s grand bargain proposal. A mere 12 percent strongly support the idea.

Lowering the overall sales tax rate by a half a point and expanding that tax to food and medicine is opposed by 64 percent, while only 31 percent support it. Gov. Rauner voiced opposition to this idea during his budget address, and now you can see why. 43 percent were strongly opposed.

Asked if they supported expanding the sales tax “to include taxing services like home repairs and landscaping,” a plan long favored by the governor, 60 percent were opposed while 37 percent supported it. 40 percent said they were strongly opposed.

The most unpopular idea tested, by far, was cutting Medicaid spending by “hundreds of millions of dollars, including coverage for low income seniors and children.” A whopping 78 percent were opposed to that idea, including 65 percent who were strongly opposed. Only 19 percent were in favor.

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- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Rocky Rosi - Monday, Mar 6, 17 @ 9:41 am:

    An “VAT” tax will fix all these issues.

  2. - Arsenal - Monday, Mar 6, 17 @ 9:43 am:

    Polling issues is always…an adventure. I mean, 38% prefer staying on the current budget path? Yikes.

    There’s also an “intensity of opinion” issue. 56% support a soda tax, but I bet less than half will actually vote on the issue. 41% oppose it, and I bet more than 2/3rds of that *will* vote on it. So c’mon, which way is that going to turn out?

  3. - Ok - Monday, Mar 6, 17 @ 9:54 am:

    Why does it seem that this article is trying to convince us that creating a budget is so hard to do?? Like it’s trying to justify why Rauner refuses to compromise on a budget. Also the budget dispute is not mainly about a tax hike or spending cut. The main dispute is about attaching Rauners unrelated pet projects to the budget. This is why there is no budget today.

  4. - illini - Monday, Mar 6, 17 @ 9:59 am:

    Now, if only he and Chance had been able to resolve the the dilemma of education funding over this past weekend, I am certain his positive numbers would rise dramatically !!!!!!!!!

  5. - Sue - Monday, Mar 6, 17 @ 10:04 am:

    Surprise. People want services but don’t want to pay for them. We need Obama back to convince voters they get free stuff and no one has to pay. Remember when he said colonoscopies would be free. And you wonder why we are where we are

  6. - Rich Miller - Monday, Mar 6, 17 @ 10:05 am:

    ===We need Obama back to convince voters they get free stuff and no one has to pay===

    Yeah, it all started with him. Perhaps you forgot that President Reagan ran up gigantic deficits.

  7. - Anonymous - Monday, Mar 6, 17 @ 10:08 am:

    Even Frank Luntz said, “Americans want the best healthcare in the world, they just don’t want to pay for it.”

  8. - Shemp - Monday, Mar 6, 17 @ 10:12 am:

    Curious how some of those numbers stack up against the demographics of the commenters here. Not seeing a 49% strongly opposed to the income tax among this group.

  9. - Lucky Pierre - Monday, Mar 6, 17 @ 10:18 am:

    Rauner losing to an unnamed candidate with unnamed policies.

    Kind of a ridiculous poll.

    Can’t wait to see the what the Democrats are going to run on.

  10. - Cubs in '16 - Monday, Mar 6, 17 @ 10:26 am:

    ===Can’t wait to see the what the Democrats are going to run on.===

    Probably something to the effect of “We’ll get the state a budget and put an end to the suffering of social services and higher ed.”

  11. - Arsenal - Monday, Mar 6, 17 @ 10:29 am:

    ==Kind of a ridiculous poll.==

    This is hardly the first time an incumbent has been tested against a Generic opponent. Just ’cause it’s bad for your guy doesn’t mean the process is without its uses.

  12. - Grandson of Man - Monday, Mar 6, 17 @ 10:31 am:

    This is good news. Rauner has done poorly and is wrecking the state and making it far worse per capita–per his time in office–than Madigan and the career politicians he’s railed against.

    I definitely agree that the Democrats need someone to beat Rauner, and of course messaging, for which there is so much fodder.

    Now Bruce is stuck defending Obamacare Medicaid expansion, something he clearly was against. There could be a big problem for him if hundreds of thousands of Illinoisans lose their coverage.

  13. - Carhartt Representative - Monday, Mar 6, 17 @ 10:31 am:

    ===Probably something to the effect of “We’ll get the state a budget and put an end to the suffering of social services and higher ed.”===

    I’d vote for that

  14. - Arsenal - Monday, Mar 6, 17 @ 10:31 am:

    BTW, the entire Rauner Project has been “Get everyone else as obsessed with Madigan as I am”, so the fact that Generic Dem =! MJM =! Instant Re-election tells us quite a bit about how that’s going.

  15. - Anonymous - Monday, Mar 6, 17 @ 10:33 am:

    Rauner can run on, lookit how well things are goin’.

  16. - Southern - Monday, Mar 6, 17 @ 10:41 am:

    Do you support a 1 cent per ounce tax on sugary drinks? Sure.

    But how much do you want to bet that you wouldn’t get the same answer if it was rephrased?

    Do you support an additional 70 cent tax on your $1.50 two-liter of soda?

    Do you support an additional 32 cent tax on your $1.00 large soda from McDonald’s?

    Do you support an additional $1.44 tax on your $4 12-pack of soda?

  17. - Rich Miller - Monday, Mar 6, 17 @ 10:44 am:

    ===But how much do you want to bet that you wouldn’t get the same answer if it was rephrased? ===

    Except look at the other tax questions. Phrased pretty much the same and yet totally opposed.

  18. - Lech W - Monday, Mar 6, 17 @ 10:49 am:

    ==Fixing the state’s budget with tax increases as part of that fix=

    Not sure why the soda tax is even being discussed as a means of raising revenue. The Soda tax is a disincentive to engage in a certain behavior. Those is favor of this tax envision a less obese population with less incidence of diabetes.

  19. - City Zen - Monday, Mar 6, 17 @ 11:13 am:

    Would love to see a deeper dive into the 12% that strongly support the income tax hike…how many work in the public sector and/or are retired.

  20. - gopower - Monday, Mar 6, 17 @ 11:34 am:

    There’s a reason, of course, why policymakers decided to call it a “penny an ounce” tax — they know full well that, thanks to the Illinois educational system,the vast majority of voters can’t do the math.

    Call it a $1.44 tax on every 12-pack of soda, and the poll results will look a lot different.

  21. - Norseman - Monday, Mar 6, 17 @ 11:39 am:

    Looks like Rauner and buds will be writing a lot more checks to pay for those ads touting alternative reality.

  22. - Cassandra - Monday, Mar 6, 17 @ 11:44 am:

    I’d like to see a deeper dive into the 49 percent who strongly oppose an income tax hike. If they feel strongly about it, they may be getting some attention from their legislators. Even the governor wants to raise the income tax. So what…the 49 percent are….”deplorables”?

  23. - Sue - Monday, Mar 6, 17 @ 11:49 am:

    Rich- you misconstrued my statement. I am saying our political class has gotten people to believe that govt services need not be paid for. Obama was particularly guilty of that. Medicaid without state costs. Yea that’s gonna bite

  24. - Paul - Monday, Mar 6, 17 @ 12:06 pm:

    I question the phrasing as well. I agree, being honest with people as to the true cost of the sugar tax and people will most likely be opposed. In addition, talking about the true cost of not raising taxes and people might be supportive. From 3.75% to 4.99% is a huge sounding jump. When you break it down; “to keep people on Medicaid and serve the individuals with disabilities; will cost maybe $10 a week on an average earner; might have a different response. People have been drilled into this belief that there haven’t been cuts. Talk to the Universities about how much in cuts they have had to suffer with. Talk to the parents of the more than 22,000 on the PUNS list about cutting more services they are waiting for, last in funding in many areas - due to cuts in funding. If the electorate was informed of the truth, I believe the outcomes of these polls would be much different.

  25. - Chicago_Downstater - Monday, Mar 6, 17 @ 12:34 pm:

    I love surveys like this. Always very interesting.

    I must say I would love to see a focus group follow-up on the 49% that strongly oppose an income tax increase. Show them the numbers and then have them pick and choose the services they would slash and show them how they’d still come up short.

    I just feel like too many folks think there’s an option where “honest” people could find a ton of fat in the IL budget and cut that and everything would be ok. That’s just not the reality of the situation though.

    Side note @Sue
    “Obama was particularly guilty of that.”

    Really? That’s your reply? I think your obsession is showing a bit.

    Obama has nothing to do with the post. At all. You got called out for a hyperbolic statement–the meaning of which Rich did not misconstrue–& like a dog with a bone you just kept gnawing. Fascinating.

  26. - wordslinger - Monday, Mar 6, 17 @ 12:51 pm:

    – Remember when he said colonoscopies would be free? And you wonder why we are where we are.–

    Apparently, lobotomies are pretty easy to come by, too.

  27. - Steve - Monday, Mar 6, 17 @ 1:04 pm:


    Thanks for this article. It’s quite informative. It’s hard to argue with any of the data. It seems pretty accurate for Illinois. My only surprise here is I would have guessed Illinois voters wouldn’t have minded an income tax increase because they seem different than many other states. Illinois voters don’t mind a sugar tax: a sugar tax they will get.

  28. - Texas Red - Monday, Mar 6, 17 @ 1:30 pm:

    taxes and their unintended consequences, Pepsi laying off 20% of workforce after Philadelphia passed the nation first soda tax..

  29. - City Zen - Monday, Mar 6, 17 @ 1:48 pm:

    == From 3.75% to 4.99% is a huge sounding jump. When you break it down; “to keep people on Medicaid and serve the individuals with disabilities; will cost maybe $10 a week on an average earner; might have a different response.==

    You can spin it the other way too. “By not raising income taxes, you can save $10 per week to provide a decent college savings fund for your child.”

  30. - Benita Butrell - Monday, Mar 6, 17 @ 4:37 pm:

    Rauner’s dismal polling numbers are going to come back to haunt him when the Kendall County Republican Chairman gives him a primary challenge in ‘18. Word on the street is James Marter (the guy who gave Mark Kirk a primary challenge, and lost enormously, but still garnered ~200k Repub votes), will have a go at the Gov next year. Will he make much of splash? No, but Rauner is going to need all the support he can get, and an attack from his right flank is something he can ill afford, regardless of how many hundreds of millions he is willing to spend.

    Don’t get me wrong, Marter is a wackjob, but he is traversing the state to attend every single dinner and event the rural Republican Party’s host.

  31. - RNUG - Monday, Mar 6, 17 @ 7:45 pm:

    == Not seeing a 49% strongly opposed to the income tax among this group. ==

    Probably because this group is skewed with more retirees (that wouldn’t be affected) than the general population, and because a high percentage of this group are better informed than the general population and recognize the clear mathematical need for added revenue.

  32. - Last Bull Moose - Monday, Mar 6, 17 @ 8:20 pm:

    One reason the tax on sugary drinks is popular is because many people never drink them. For these people, this is a tax on other people. That is always popular.

  33. - Anonymous - Monday, Mar 6, 17 @ 9:45 pm:

    But a consumption tax is the cornerstone of GOP fiscal policy.

  34. - blue dog dem - Tuesday, Mar 7, 17 @ 1:19 am:

    …just a spoonful of sugar helps the deficit go down….deficit go down..

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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