January 23, 2006

Blago edges Topinka in Post-Dispatch poll, Bush sinks further in both Illinois and Missouri

In the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
Gov. Rod Blagojevich is entering his campaign for a second term with fewer than half of Illinoisans behind him.

The reason may be that voters don't share his priorities, according to a poll by the Post-Dispatch and KMOV-TV (Channel 4).

The statewide poll, conducted last week, found tepid support for Blagojevich's proposed new infrastructure program, and deep division over his suggestion that school rebuilding could be funded with a state-run keno game.

Perhaps most ominously for the Democrat, the poll found his 47 percent "favorable" rating is statistically identical to that of the Republican frontrunner for governor, Judy Baar Topinka - while his "unfavorable" rating is significantly higher than hers.

"It's pretty clear he's vulnerable. He's got his work cut out for him," said pollster Del Ali of Research 2000, the Maryland firm that conducted the poll.

Pollsters conducted telephone interviews with 800 likely voters in Illinois between Monday and Wednesday.

Blagojevich has pegged his re-election hopes this year largely on two massive state initiatives: a program to provide universal health care to Illinois children, and a $3 billion infrastructure rebuilding plan. He has said he could pay for the expensive ideas without raising state taxes; critics say it will add to the state's budget deficit.

The new poll suggests Blagojevich is misreading Illinoisans' priorities - and their tolerance for more debt.

When respondents were asked to rank six state issues, the top issue by far was education funding. Balancing the state budget was the second most-chosen top priority among respondents.

Meanwhile, Blagojevich's big issues, infrastructure and children's health care, came in third and fourth, respectively. And "avoiding tax increases" - the mantra Blagojevich has clung to for three years - was ranked fifth, with only 14 percent of respondents calling it their top priority.

"He ought to focus on balancing the budget, even if it takes a tax increase," said poll respondent Sam Eubanks of Springfield, a retired state employee. "I'm not opposed to (infrastructure rebuilding), if we were in an economy where we had the money to do it . . (But) if you borrow, you've got to pay it back."

As part of his infrastructure proposal, Blagojevich has called for a school rebuilding program that would be partly funded by a state-run keno game like the one Missouri operates.

The game, similar to bingo, is played on television screens in bars and restaurants, allowing patrons to place bets and watch the outcome.

The poll found Illinoisans uneasy about the keno idea. Fewer than half of the respondents supported it, just slightly more than those who opposed it.

"His proposals just aren't that popular," said Ali, the pollster.

Blagojevich fared better on access to the "morning after" birth-control pills. After some pharmacists refused to fill prescriptions for the pills, arguing that they cause a form of abortion, Blagojevich issued an order requiring that pharmacies fill such prescriptions.

The poll found that almost two-thirds of respondents favored Blagojevich's action. It was backed by 60 percent of male respondents and 64 percent of women.

"Women should have that option, so they don't end up having to do something even more damaging," said Julia Schubert, a Republican business owner in Cairo, Ill., who generally isn't happy with Blagojevich but strongly supports his stand regarding the pharmacists. "They shouldn't be able to just refuse it like that. We live in America."

The poll found a cool reception for Blagojevich this year in Southern Illinois, a region that surprised the political system in 2002 by backing his election.

In the ensuing three years, he has been accused by some downstaters of neglecting the region's concerns in favor of Chicago issues. The new poll found that somewhat fewer than half of the downstaters polled rank the governor's performance as "only fair" or "poor." Cook County was the only area in which Blagojevich, a native Chicagoan, received majority approval.

"He doesn't do anything to help this state, except Chicago," said poll respondent Louise Newlin, a resident of Jasper County in southeastern Illinois. "He doesn't worry much about us downstate folks."

Blagojevich is opposed in the March Democratic primary by former Chicago alderman Edwin Eisendrath, who isn't expected to pose a serious threat.

Topinka, the Republican frontrunner and currently Illinois' state treasurer, is one of four candidates vying for the GOP nomination for governor. Recent polls have consistently put her far ahead of three Republican rivals: dairy magnate James Oberweis, businessman Ron Gidwitz and state Sen. Bill Brady, R-Bloomington.
The AP account has a far less pessimistic spin than the Post-Dispatch's.
Gov. Rod Blagojevich received a 47 percent ``favorable'' rating from likely Illinois voters, but that was higher than the 45 percent ``favorable'' rating they gave Republican gubernatorial primary candidate Judy Baar Topinka, according to a new poll.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch/KMOV-TV poll released Saturday did not ask voters how they feel about any of the other Republican candidates for governor and Edwin Eisendrath, who is challenging Blagojevich in the Democratic primary.

The poll showed slightly different numbers when likely voters were asked to choose between Blagojevich and Topinka ``if the 2006 election for governor were held today.'' Forty-five percent said they would vote for Blagojevich, 37 percent said Topinka and 18 percent said they were undecided.

Pollsters interviewed 800 likely Illinois voters by telephone. The poll, conducted by Maryland-based Research 2000 Monday through Wednesday, has an error margin of 3.5 percentage points.

Blagojevich's proposal for state-sponsored keno games to raise money for school construction received some support, although lukewarm. Forty-seven percent of respondents said they favored keno, 44 percent said they opposed the plan and 9 percent said they weren't sure.

Blagojevich's executive order requiring pharmacies to fill prescriptions for emergency contraception was more popular, with 62 percent in favor, 27 percent opposed and 11 percent unsure.

Education funding was the top issue for 25 percent of those polled. Seventeen percent said balancing the state budget was the most important issue facing the state. Sixteen percent said roads and bridge construction was the top issue, and 15 percent said providing universal health care for children was most important.

U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., was popular with those polled, receiving a 62 percent approval rating.

The ongoing racketeering trial of former Gov. George Ryan has the attention of 69 percent of respondents, and two-thirds of those who said they are following the trial said they believe Ryan is guilty.
Another Post-Dispatch account shows Bush's ratings plunging further in Illinois and taking a dive in Missouri as well.
Barely one-third of the poll's 800 Illinois respondents gave Bush a "favorable" rating, his lowest number in five years of similar polls commissioned by the newspaper.

That dissatisfaction, the numbers indicate, stems largely from the war in Iraq. Half the poll respondents say the war has made America less safe, and more than half say it has damaged America's image in the world.

Similar majorities said the administration should begin withdrawing troops from Iraq, and should stop its policy of surveillance of U.S. citizens without court warrants.

The poll found that almost two-thirds of Illinoisans believe the nation is moving in the "wrong direction."

"These are atrocious numbers. They're awful" for Bush, said pollster Del Ali of Research 2000, the Maryland polling firm that conducted the poll of 800 likely Illinois voters Jan. 16-18. "The administration's agenda just doesn't resonate in Illinois."
These guys are on the ropes. Dare we be optimistic that they'll plunge even further when the Republican ethics scandals explode?


At 1/23/2006 10:09 AM, Anonymous puzzler said...

Blagoevich is a skilled politician, but a lousy administrator. He has not done a good job of keeping or recruiting qualified people. Long term knowledgeable employeees have been replaced with political appointments, many of whom are not qualified to hold their positions. Ask anyone who works in state government. They will tell you this administration does not care about providing quality service to the citizens of Illinois. That belief is what the Governor is up against, and it can't be dispelled by throwing money at a few choice projects - or a lot of choice projects. State employees and the citizens of Illinois have lost faith in the Blago administration.

At 1/23/2006 10:38 AM, Blogger highxlr8r said...

I think we can be a bit optimistic in that Republican woes will increase with the ethics scandals, however, the Republican Party is masterful as messaging and marketing (which in my view is one of the only reasons they win) and so we can not afford to be lax and watch them suffer.

We need concrete legislative and political priorities to fill the gap or else the Rs will be able to land on their feet.


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