Jobless benefits extension finds support in poll

WASHINGTON — Polling taken for a liberal Washington-based group finds that 13th Congressional District voters favor, by more than 2-to-1, extending federal unemployment benefits.

The poll of 573 voters in the district now represented by Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, was taken Dec. 19 and 20 by Public Policy Polling, which does polling for Democrats and liberal interest groups. The poll was commissioned by the self-described progressive group Americans United for Change.

Federal emergency unemployment benefits will expire for 1.3 million Americans on Saturday.

"Speaker (John) Boehner and fellow Washington Republican Rodney Davis are hopelessly out of touch, and their decision to Scrooge over a million unemployed Americans three days after Christmas is the latest and among the worst examples of it," said Jeremy Funk, communications director of Americans United For Change. "All these struggling Americans got from the GOP for Christmas was a 'Get Employed Soon' card. Republicans didn't care that job applicants still vastly outnumber job openings in every industry sector amid a fragile economic recovery."

Andrew Flach, a spokesman for Davis, said Monday the congressman is "willing to consider any proposal to address unemployment benefits, but to date there hasn't been anything introduced. Once there is a proposal, we're hopeful that it will include some commonsense reforms such as the Opportunity KNOCKS Act, which was introduced by Congressman Davis last spring.

"This would allow folks who are receiving unemployment benefits to go back to school or receive the training necessary to find a new job without going through the antiquated (workforce investment act) process."

The Public Policy Polling survey found that 51 percent of those 13th District voters asked "strongly feel" that unemployment benefits should continue, and that 15 percent "somewhat feel" they should continue. Twenty-four percent "strongly feel" they should be cut off, while 5 percent "somewhat feel" the benefits should be ended.

Even among 13th District Republicans, according to Public Policy Polling, there is support for continuing benefits. Forty-three percent either "strongly" or "somewhat" favor extending benefits. Thirty-nine percent either "strongly" or "somewhat" feel they should be cut off.

According to the pollster, 33 percent of those asked approve of the job the first-term Republican is doing, while 35 percent disapprove and 32 percent are not sure. Davis had better approval ratings among men than women, among whites than Hispanics and African-Americans, and among voters 18 to 29 years old than especially those 30 to 45. He had a 43 percent approval rating among the youngest voters, but only a 23 percent approval rating among those 30 to 34. Among those older than 65, his approval rating was 367 percent and his disapproval rating was 32 percent.

Overall, 41 percent said they'd be less likely to vote for Davis in the next election if he "voted to cut off federal unemployment benefits."

The 13th Congressional District stretches from Champaign-Urbana on the northeast through Decatur and Springfield, and includes parts of Bloomington, Normal, Edwardsville and Collinsville on the southwest.

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