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What Would Illinois Voters Do to Fix the State’s Finances?

Illinois voters want their politicians to fix the state’s financial crisis—and will be mad no matter how representatives do it.

Governor Rauner and House Speaker Madigan in marginally happier times—the governor’s swearing-in.   Photo: Zbigniew Bzdak/Chicago Tribune

Recently Ogden & Fry did a poll of Illinoisians—in this case, roughly 900 likely voters—about what they think and what they want. The gist? They disapprove of Gov. Rauner, they disapprove of Speaker Madigan more (although, as Rich Miller has pointed out, that’s nothing new), and they disapprove of the General Assembly most of all.

They want the Illinois General Assembly to fix the state. How they want that to happen is decidedly less clear.

For instance, Illinois voters are not crazy about cutting services. 

How would you view the elected official who cut services to balance the budget?

Favorably
34.6%
Unfavorably
39.9%
Undecided
25.5%
Source Ogden & Fry

They really don’t want to pay more in taxes.

How would you view the elected official who raised taxes to balance the budget?

Favorably
30.8%
Unfavorably
48.8%
Undecided
20.4%
Source Ogden & Fry

And their preference between the two paths is within the margin of error of 3.34 percentage points.

In order to fix the budget, would you rather services be cut or pay more in taxes?

Services cut
39.4%
Pay more in taxes
36.1%
Undecided
24.5%
Source Ogden & Fry

Overall, likely voters polled lean toward cutting services. In the crosstabs, there’s a regional difference, as you might expect—Cook County residents would rather pay more in taxes (41 percent) than have services be cut (29 percent), but they’d also be more likely to view the elected official who raised taxes unfavorably (51 percent versus 28 percent favorably). So good luck with that.

I found one thing in the crosstabs that gave me pause, though. Likely voters polled outside Cook County make up 542 of the 898 total. And that sample is heavily weighted towards the post-middle-aged and the elderly.

Respondents by age

Age 18-30
10.9%
31-45
16.1%
46-64
32.7%
65+
40.3%
Source Ogden & Fry

Old people tend to be more conservative. And while they also vote more, they don’t make up that much of the electorate, at least on a national level. Voters who are 65 years or older, according to the census, usually make up about 20 percent of the vote nationally. In Illinois in 2014, that number rose to a high of 28 percent. So it seems that 65-plus voters are probably a bit overrepresented in the poll, especially from downstate polls, which might move the needle a bit away from cutting services.

Which, in turn, would make the desires of the electorate even more opaque. Hope that helps!

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