SPRINGFIELD — Only about a third of Illinois voters say the state’s yearlong budget impasse has had a direct impact on their families, according to the latest poll from the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University.
The budget battle between Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Democratic leaders of the General Assembly was put on hold in July with the passage of a stopgap spending plan that funds state operations past the Nov. 8 election and through December, but not before social service programs cut staff or shut down altogether or before state universities laid off hundreds of workers.
Still, the survey of 1,000 registered voters, conducted from Sept. 27 to Oct. 2, found that a large majority didn’t feel they were directly affected.
David Yepsen, director of the institute, said in a written statement that he was surprised more weren’t feeling the effects of elected leaders’ inability to agree.
The share of voters who say they’ve been affected was 34 percent, essentially unchanged from the 32 percent who responded that way in a poll taken this spring when accounting for recent poll’s the 3.1 percentage point margin of error.
“I thought the numbers of people impacted would be increasing as it wore on,” Yepsen said, “but it’s also true many people aren’t impacted by changes in government services.”
The impact of the impasse has been felt slightly more downstate, where 38 percent of voters say they’ve been affected, compared with 32 percent in Chicago and its suburbs. Among Democrats, 37 percent say they’ve felt the effects, compared with 34 percent of independents and 29 percent of Republicans.
John Bouman is president of the Chicago-based Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law and chairs the executive committee of the Responsible Budget Coalition, a nonpartisan group of more than 300 civic organizations, social service providers, labor unions and others.
The new poll “confirms what the Responsible Budget Coalition’s network of advocates and providers already know,” Bouman said, noting that 1 million people statewide have lost services or jobs as a result of the impasse, a figure drawn from a report put out this summer by the United Way of Illinois.
“These numbers should get the attention of lawmakers who have turned their eyes away from Springfield in favor of a focus on elections,” Bouman said in a prepared statement. “The effects of inaction are felt by voters in every legislative district. While the poll clearly shows that voters favor differing approaches to resolving the crisis, they all want it solved responsibly and quickly.”
Indeed, the poll shows voters are split on how to address the state’s budget problems, with 44 percent saying the solution is cuts alone and 33 percent calling for a combination of cuts and new revenue. Only 12 percent of voters say revenue alone is the answer.
Linda Baker, a professor at the Simon Institute, said one silver lining in the survey results is an increase in the percentage calling for a combination of cuts and revenue. That approach was favored by just 27 percent of voters when researchers first asked in 2009.
Meanwhile, the percentage calling for cuts alone is down from a high of 58 percent in 2011.
“Hopefully this can help spur policymakers on both sides of the aisle to consider a compromise that includes solutions offered by both parties,” Baker said in a prepared statement.