Illinois residents continue to exercise their prerogative not to like the state’s chief executives.
A recent public opinion poll — more interesting than substantive — reveals that Illinois voters are not exactly enamored with the job performance of new Gov. J.B. Pritzker.
But, instead of focusing on a single governor, Morning Consult examined the job approval ratings of governors in all 50 states. Considered in that context, Pritzker is not doing all that badly in the public eye.
Billing itself as a leader in gathering political intelligence, Morning Consult states that “on a daily basis, (it) is surveying over 5,000 registered voters across the United States on their governor” and provides quarterly updates on its findings.
The poll, which tracked public opinion from April through June, indicates that 44 percent of registered voters approve of Pritzker’s seven-month tenure in office, while 33 percent disapprove.
While not overwhelmingly positive, it’s hardly politically problematic. If an election was held and half the undecideds (23 percent) broke the Democrat’s way, Pritzker would win in a landslide with 55 percent-plus of the vote.
Pritzker, of course, won’t be up for re-election until 2022. So, as election fodder, the results don’t amount to much except as a brief snapshot of public opinion that shows a Democratic governor in an overwhelmingly Democratic state substantially under 50 percent in voter approval.
He’s not alone when it comes to popular perceptions.
Kentucky’s GOP Gov. Matt Bevin drew a 32 percent approval and 56 percent disapproval rating, while Connecticut’s Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont received a 32 percent approval rating compared to a 48 percent disapproval rating. Those two clearly face serious re-election problems if circumstances don’t change for the better in their states.
Not all governors are so at odds with public opinion. Two — Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan — scored 70 percent approval ratings and above. That’s ironic considering both are Republicans in solid Democratic states.
As far as Pritzker goes, there’s no need for alarm among Democrats. Given the beleaguered state of the state of Illinois, it’s hard to imagine how any governor would do well in a public opinion poll. Right or wrong, the governor always gets the blame.
The fact is that Illinois hasn’t had a popular governor since Republican Jim Edgar left office in January 1999.
His successors — Republican George Ryan, Democrats Rod Blagojevich and Pat Quinn and Republican Bruce Rauner — so fouled their gubernatorial nests they either opted not to run for re-election or were impeached or defeated for re-election. Two of them — Ryan and Blagojevich — were imprisoned.
So in the context of that political awfulness, Pritzker isn’t doing half-bad. It’s a different story policy wise, but those chickens won’t come home to roost for a while.
Many voters may resent the tax increases Pritzker championed and the Legislature approved — a 19-cent a gallon gas tax hike, various large fee boosts and his proposed progressive income tax hike plan — but they have shown time and again that they have short memories.
Besides, it is not crucial for a governor to be popular. What matters is that he be perceived more favorably than his election opponent.
With Pritzker enjoying the advantages of unlimited campaign funds, a state whose voters reflexively support Democrats and a disorganized and financially weak Republican opposition, the governor’s only real problems are the state’s intractable policy woes.
The two, naturally, go hand in hand. If Pritzker fails to ameliorate — as former Rauner did — Illinois’ financial problems, the dynamics could change.
For now, Pritzker is sitting pretty, even if Illinois — like Humpty Dumpty — sits precariously on a wall in fear of falling deeper into the financial abyss.