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Thursday, Oct. 29, 2009 09:27 am

Polls show half of voters disapprove of Quinn’s performance

Gov. Pat Quinn

For the first time since taking office, a new Rasmussen Reports poll of Illinoisans shows that more than half of all voters disapprove of Gov. Pat Quinn’s performance in office.

The poll of 500 likely Illinois voters taken Oct. 14 found that 53 percent disapproved of Quinn’s performance while 45 percent approved. That’s a six-point switch from August when Rasmussen had Quinn’s approval at 47 percent and his disapproval at 49 percent. Back in June, Quinn’s approval was measured at 57 percent while his disapproval was 41. In April, Rasmussen had Quinn’s approval rating at 61 percent and his disapproval at just 37 percent. There’s an obvious trend.

Quinn’s disapproval rating has been climbing across all demographics this year, including among Democrats. Just 26 percent of Democrats disapproved of Quinn’s performance in June, but 38 percent of Democrats disapproved this month. Independent voters have been a lot more unforgiving. In April, 36 percent of independents disapproved of the governor’s job performance, but Rasmussen’s latest October survey has 59 percent of independents turning thumbs down.

The governor most assuredly was viewed extra positive by voters in the wake of Rod Blagojevich’s ouster and the fresh start given Illinois politics. Quinn has since unsuccessfully pushed for an unpopular tax increase and has been unable to make good on promises to enact strong campaign finance reforms and also couldn’t balance the budget. The constant crises are most definitely taking their toll, as they are with many other governors around the country.

The poll was taken near the start of the current TV advertising blitz being conducted by Quinn and his Democratic primary opponent Dan Hynes. Rasmussen rated Hynes’ favorables at 46 percent, with 28 percent saying they rated him unfavorably and 26 percent were unsure. Quinn’s favorables were 50 percent, with 41 percent saying they had an unfavorable view of him and 8 percent weren’t sure.

The Rasmussen poll also shows Illinois Democrats have a significant advantage in the “generic” gubernatorial ballot, with 43 percent saying they’ll vote for a non-specific Democrat and 37 percent saying they’ll cast their vote for a Republican candidate for governor. Rasmussen has the national generic congressional ballot at just the opposite, with 42 percent Republican and 37 percent Democratic, but those Illinois numbers may be less strong for Democrats than you might expect in a state which has produced such gigantic Democratic majorities in the past decade.

The Republicans also have a big lead among senior citizens 65 and over, with 40 percent saying they’ll take a Republican ballot and just 33 percent saying they’ll cast their vote for a Democratic gubernatorial candidate. The Democrats have consistently won the senior vote by 10 points over the past two election cycles, so this is a very worrying result for that party and worth a closer look. The poll, by the way, has a margin of error of /- 4.5 percent, but that’s higher for individual demographics.

Meanwhile, a recent Paul Simon Institute poll found that 65.5 percent opposed an increase in the state income tax from 3 percent to 4.5 percent — a proposal pushed by Gov. Quinn throughout the year.  Less than a third supported the idea. Quinn’s income tax hike plan has been a focal point of Comptroller Dan Hynes’ TV ad campaign and the Republicans have been salivating at the chance to run against it next year.

Hynes has pushed an alternative plan to raise income taxes only on the wealthy. That proposal wasn’t polled by the Paul Simon Institute this year, but they did poll it last year.

Asked how they felt about “a proposal to add brackets to the state income tax structure so that higher-income residents pay higher taxes,” 66 percent said they favored it. Just 29 percent opposed it and 5 percent didn’t know.

That’s the only tax hike Illinoisans supported last year, so it’s little wonder why Hynes would favor it this year.

Hynes appears to have the far better political positioning on the tax issue than Quinn, and doesn’t have the baggage of incumbency, which is becoming increasingly toxic throughout the nation. But none of it means quite yet that he’ll win the primary. Democratic voters won’t speak until Feb. 2.

Rich Miller publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and