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Survey: Voters Diverge On Gov, Economy

Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks at a candidate forum in Peoria in this file photo from January 2018.

A majority of Illinoisans think the state is on the wrong track and have a dim view of the economy, but the pessimism doesn't seem to be affecting Gov. J.B. Pritzker's job approval.

In a new survey from NPR Illinois and the University of Illinois Springfield, 59 percent of respondents approve of the way the first-term governor is handling his job.

Pritzker, a Democrat, is above water in all age groups, and is most popular among young people, those who live in Cook County, and those who identify as black or Latino.

Pritzker’s popularity is somewhat surprising in the context of other findings in the survey. An overwhelming 77 percent of respondents rate the state’s economy as fair or poor. And 3 people out of 5 say they’ve considered moving away.

Although a majority of survey respondents think Illinois is on the wrong track and take a dim view of the economy, they’re giving higher marks to freshman Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s job performance.

That, however, may be more talk than reality.

Among the 61 percent who said they’ve thought about moving away in the last year, just ...

  • 16 percent looked at jobs in a new state.
  • 5 percent applied for jobs in a new state.
  • 26 percent looked at housing in a new state.
  • 2 percent applied for housing in a new state.
  • 28 percent looked up the cost of living in a new state.
  • 15 percent looked up the cost of moving to a new state.
  • 9 percent told friends and family they were moving to a new state.

“We were trying to get at the difference between less committed and more committed respondents,” said A.J. Simmons, director of the UIS Survey Research Office, which conducted the survey. “Taking actual steps to prepare for a move, like applying for jobs and housing, suggest a more serious consideration than simply looking.”
For those who said they wanted to leave, the survey asked them to choose up to three reasons from a list. In descending order of popularity, people cited lower state taxes (27%), state government and policies (17%), better weather (15%), lower crime (13%), job opportunities (12%), family or personal reasons (8%) and better schools (6%).

The top potential destinations were Florida (10%), Indiana (8%), Texas (8%), Arizona (6%), California (6%) and Tennessee (6%).

The survey used an online panel of 1,012 Illinois registered voters and ran from Sept. 13-23, 2019. It was designed and analyzed by three units of the University of Illinois Springfield: the Center for State Policy and Leadership; the Institute for Legal, Legislative, and Policy Studies; and the Survey Research Office. It was cosponsored by the Center, the Institute, and NPR Illinois.

Additional results will be released in the coming days, on topics ranging from the proposed graduated income tax to firearms policy.

Brian Mackey covers Illinois state government and politics from the WUIS Statehouse bureau. He was previously A&E editor at The State Journal-Register and Statehouse bureau chief for the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin. He can be reached at (217) 206-6020.