SPRINGFIELE -- In the first weeks of his new term as Illinois’ elected governor, Pat Quinn faced a $13 billion deficit and saw the legislature pass controversial bills hiking income taxes and repealing the death penalty – both of which he signed.
SPRINGFIELD -- In the first weeks of his new term as Illinois’ elected governor, Pat Quinn faced a $13 billion deficit and saw the legislature pass controversial bills hiking income taxes and repealing the death penalty – both of which he signed.
Now, as the third month of his term draws to a close, a public opinion poll puts Gov. Quinn’s approval rating at 30.6 percent.
With a massive budget hole, looming program cuts and disagreement within state government as to how the crisis should be handled, some Springfield residents expressed frustration with the job the governor has done in the beginning of this term.
“Quinn, he didn’t get on his job,” said Arlan Williams, a 46-year-old unemployed Springfieldian. “He’s cutting too many programs that people, poor people, need. He doesn’t care.”
Not all in Springfield are critical of the governor.
“He’s doing more than what the other people (his predecessors) have done,” said Jason Flynn, 31, a Springfield construction worker. “He’s doing good on some things.”
Flynn said he approved of the governor’s signing of the death penalty repeal.
Ricky Stead, 25, a computer programmer, said Quinn is doing much better than his predecessor, convicted felon Rod Blagojevich. One of the most progressive things the governor has done was to sign the civil unions bill, Stead said.
“I think that’s been a long time coming,” Stead said.
The poll was conducted by We Ask America, a subsidiary of a company owned by the conservative Illinois Manufacturers Association.
Rating no surprise
The company polled 1,184 Illinois voting households in an automated phone poll on March 20. Respondents were asked, “In general, do you approve or disapprove of the job Illinois governor Pat Quinn is doing?”
Of those polled, 31 percent approved, 61 percent disapproved and 9 percent had no opinion. The margin of error was plus or minus 2.85 percent.
Calls and emails to the governor’s office were not returned Friday.
Quinn’s low approval rating shouldn’t come as a surprise, said Kent Redfield, emeritus professor of political science at the University of Illinois Springfield.
“His poll numbers weren’t that great going into the general election,” Redfield said. “While he probably would, under normal circumstances, get a bump out of winning, it was followed by a lame-duck session tax increase, which probably melted that post-election bump.”
To boost his rating, Quinn needs to “come out, show leadership in terms of some kind of workable budget plan and hope the national economy turns around,” Redfield said.
Illinois Republicans plan on capitalizing on the governor’s low approval rating and frustration over the tax hike.
“I definitely think all of the legislators who voted for the tax increase are going to be held accountable,” Illinois Republican Party deputy executive director Jonathan Blessing said.
Blessing said he expects Republicans to pick up seats in 2012.
Democratic legislators weren’t so sure.
“It’s a long time before the next election, and most of those depend on the legislator and what they’ve done on their own and what they’ve done locally,” said Rep. Dan Reitz, D-Steeleville, who voted for the tax increase.
Rep. Elaine Nekritz, D-Northbrook, also voted for the tax increase, saying it was a tough, but necessary decision brought on by challenging times.
“I think every elected official has cause for concern, not just Democrats,” Nekritz said. “People are unhappy. They’re struggling financially, as is the state, so we all have cause for concern.”
Andy Brownfield can be reached at (217) 782-3095.
Deep cuts vs. tax increase
As part of ongoing polling about the status of all Midwestern governors, We Ask America released the approval rating of Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich on March 23.
Kasich’s rating stands at 35 percent, slightly higher than Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn’s 31 percent.
The Ohio poll asked 1,136 voting households, “In general, do you approve or disapprove of the job Ohio governor Kasich is doing?” with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.91 percent.
Kasich has taken a different governing tack than Quinn, proposing cuts in 250 of 371 line items in Ohio’s general revenue spending.
Quinn has raised personal and corporate income taxes, although he plans to make spending cuts as well.
National and international unease is leading to low approval ratings for most American governors, said Christopher Mooney, University of Illinois Springfield professor of political science.
“When the economy is bad, you have earthquakes, nuclear holocaust and uncertainty in the Middle East, people are going to be nervous, and a general sense of worry and upset is going to be reflected on all public officials,” Mooney said.
State-specific factors, such as the economy, factor in too, he said. Illinois’ budget deficit is an estimated $13 billion, while Ohio’s stands at $8 billion.
And a governor’s personality and governing style is reflected in the polling numbers as well.
“Quinn has never been very popular,” Mooney said. “He barely beat a relatively weak Republican candidate, and other than just after he was sworn in when Blagojevich was impeached, he was never very popular.”
Kasich, on the other hand, is one of the new breed of tough conservative governors swept in by the Republican wave of the 2010 election.
“Kasich is pretty abrasive,” Mooney said. “Right now, a lot of people are not liking that.”
How Quinn looks to some
*Arlan Williams, 46, Springfield, unemployed.
“Everything’s going up but your income. But the politicians keep raising their own income.”
*Lafayett Glenn, 42, Springfield, handyman.
“So far, what I read, (Quinn is doing) an OK job. He’s still playing politics as usual, like all politicians do. I think, for the most part, he’s doing a good job.”
*Colleen Carr, 58, Springfield, works for AT&T.
“I think he’s headed in the right direction, really. I didn’t want to see a tax increase, but I know he has to do something to change this around because we’re in a hole, but I still think there’s a lot of room for improvement.”
*Ricky Stead, 25, Springfield, computer programmer.
“It’s kind of difficult to tell in Illinois, with such a bad rap that we’ve gotten with our previous governors, but I think under the circumstances he’s done some things to try to turn everything around.”
*Jason Flynn, 31, Springfield, construction worker.
“He’s doing more than what the other people (his predecessors) have done. He’s doing good on some things. (The most important thing the governor can do is) try to stand this state up, make sure everything runs kosher.”
*Fayne Davis, Springfield, student at Lincoln Land Community College.
“Overall, I’m not too happy with him. (Regarding school district consolidation and regional school superintendent defunding), I just think education should be first and foremost.”