Illinois’ highest elected officials received mixed job-performance reviews in the poll just released from the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.
The Simon PollTM was based on a statewide sample of 1,000 registered voters conducted March 11 through March 17. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 percent.
The voters were asked whether they approved or disapproved of the jobs being done by Governor J. B. Pritzker, President Donald Trump, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, Speaker of the House Michael Madigan, and Senate President John Cullerton.
This was an early test for Governor Pritzker, who just took office in mid-January. Since then the governor has introduced his first budget and embarked on an ambitious plan to deal with the state’s long-term structural deficit. His plan has involved high-profile advocacy for a constitutional amendment that would shift Illinois’ income tax from a flat rate to a graduated rate.
Two months into his new administration, Simon Poll respondents gave Governor Pritzker a 40 percent positive job rating, while 38 percent disapproved, a narrow two-percentage-point positive net. This included 10 percent who strongly approved and 30 percent who somewhat approved, and 14 percent who somewhat disapproved and 24 percent who strongly disapproved. Another 7 percent said they neither approved nor disapproved, and 15 percent had no opinion.
For comparison, at the same point in Bruce Rauner’s term, the March 2015 Simon PollTM showed Governor Rauner at 37 approval vs. 31 percent disapproval, with one-third, or 32, percent who had not decided or had no opinion at that point.
Not surprisingly, Pritzker’s ratings varied significantly according to the voters’ place of residence and partisan affiliation. Fifty percent of voters from the City of Chicago approved of the governor’s job performance, while only 28 percent disapproved. Forty percent of the voters from suburban Cook and the Collar Counties approved and 36 percent disapproved. Downstate, 34 percent approved and 50 percent disapproved.
By party, 65 percent of Democrats endorsed Pritzker’s job performance, while only 12 percent disapproved. Seventy percent of Republicans disapproved of Pritzker’s performance, and 15 percent approved. Independents fell in-between, with 31 percent approving and 41 percent disapproving.
“These partisan and geographic differences in Illinois reflect the deep polarization that exists in the nation, and it shows no signs of getting any better” said John S. Jackson, one of the co-directors of the Simon Poll. “At this point Governor Pritzker is 2 percent above water, so he can go either way depending on how he is perceived to be handling the office of the governor and dealing with the enduring budgetary problems that have faced the state for a generation,” Jackson added.
President Trump’s job approval was 39 percent positive and 59 percent negative — net of 20 points underwater in Illinois. This consisted of 49 percent who strongly disapprove and 10 percent who somewhat disapprove of the president’s performance.
Partisan and geographic differences are on stark display in the varying results for the president. Ninety-three percent of Democrats disapproved and only 6 percent approved of the job Trump is doing as president; 83 percent of Republicans approved and only 16 percent disapproved. Independents were in between, with 35 approval and 60 percent disapproval.
Three quarters (76 percent) of the voters in the City of Chicago disapproved of Trump’s performance and 24 percent approved. In the suburbs, 39 percent approved and 60 percent disapproved. This left downstate as the only region where the president’s approval ratings were not in a net negative range, with 50 percent who approved and 46 percent disapproved.
“Illinois exhibits its own version of the blue-state/red-state divide,” said Charlie Leonard, a co-director of the Simon Poll. “Urban Chicago and its suburbs decidedly disapprove of President Trump, while in the more Republican, less densely populated “red” part of the state, he is about as popular as in a traditionally Republican state like Indiana or Nebraska.”
U. S. Senator Dick Durbin is up for re-election next year and the poll tested his beginning point as he launches a new campaign. The results showed Senator Durbin with a 51 percent approval rating, compared to 41 percent disapproval, 8 percent who either didn’t know or had no opinion.
Sixty-five percent of voters in the City of Chicago approved of the job Durbin is doing, while 29 percent disapproved. In suburban Cook and the Collar Counties, 51 percent approved and 41 percent disapproved, exactly matching the statewide results. Downstate the margins were 42 percent who approved and 48 percent who disapproved.
Durbin fared very well among his fellow Democrats with the results showing that 78 percent approved and 15 percent disapproved of the job he was doing. Republicans gave a 74 percent disapproval to 21 percent approval rating. Fifty-one percent of Independents approved and 41 percent disapproved, again exactly matching the statewide results.
Turning to state legislative leaders, the poll asked about the job performance of Speaker of the House Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton.
Fully 71 percent of voters statewide said they disapproved of Madigan’s job performance, while only 20 percent approved, with 10 percent undecided or neither.
City of Chicago voters gave Madigan a 26 percent approval to 66 percent disapproval rating. Suburban Cook and the Collar Counties gave him a 19 percent approve and 72 percent disapprove rating. Downstate voters were almost identical with the suburban voters with 71 percent disapproving and 19 percent approving.
Thirty-four percent of Democratic voters approved and 55 percent disapproved of the Speaker’s job performance. Eighty-seven percent of Republicans disapproved and only 8 percent approved, while Independents showed a 10 percent approval and 78 percent disapproval rating.
The Speaker has long been a high-profile target for Republican attack ads in a variety of campaigns. In the campaigns for governor and in many state house and senate races in November of 2018, Republican candidates from Governor Rauner through state representative races and some local races focused on Madigan. His job approval vs. disapproval ratings show those results as well as his many years as perhaps the most highly recognizable Democrat in Illinois.
By contrast, Senate President John Cullerton keeps a much lower profile and the results show in contrast with the Speaker. Senator Cullerton’s approval ratings were 24 percent approve and 35 percent disapprove, with 6 percent who said neither and more than one-third, 35 percent, who said they did not know enough to rate him.
There were virtually no regional differences on Cullerton’s job approval ratings. By party, the differences were only marginal. Thirty-five percent of the Democrats said they approved of Cullerton’s job performance with 23 percent who disapproved. Forty-eight percent of Republicans said they disapproved and 15 percent approved. This left 37 percent of the Democrats and 36 percent of the Independents saying they did not know enough to rate him with 29 percent of the Republicans who did not want to provide a rating.
Director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, John Shaw, summarized the findings as follows, “Illinois remains a strikingly divided and polarized state. By and large, Illinoisans view their political leaders through profoundly partisan lenses.”
You’d think Pritzker would have a honeymoon period, but nope. Lots of folks are reverting to party or withholding judgment.
And Trump at -21 in the suburbs has got to be giving legislative Republicans serious heartburn. Next year will be a fully nationalized election. And Durbin has to be happy (as long as he avoids a serious primary from his left).
And -51? Holy moly.