March 15, 2017

Poll: Majority of voters disapprove of job being done by Rauner, Madigan

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Nearly two years into Illinois’ historic budget impasse, a majority of Illinois residents disapprove of the jobs being done by Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan, according to a new poll by Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Paul Simon Public Policy Institute. The poll asked whether respondents approved or disapproved of the job being done by the governor and the four legislative leaders. 

The Simon Poll was conducted March 4-11. The sample included 1,000 registered voters and a margin for error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points. Sixty percent of the interviews were conducted on cell phones. 

Both political leaders are underwater with voters statewide. Roughly six in 10 disapprove of the job being done by both Madigan (61 percent) and Rauner (58 percent). Last October’s Simon Poll showed Madigan’s disapproval rating at 63 percent and Rauner’s at 55 percent. 

“Clearly, both political leaders are taking a beating with voters as the Statehouse stalemate nears the two-year mark, and the gap between the two is shrinking,” Jak Tichenor, interim institute director, said. “It’s not good news at all for either man, both of whose political fortunes are at risk heading into next year’s elections.” 

Rauner is seeking his second term in 2018 and Madigan will defend his 67-seat Democratic majority in the 118-member House after losing a net four seats last November. 

“We have tested Gov. Rauner’s job approval four times since he took office, and two findings jump out at us,” Charlie Leonard, a former visiting professor at the institute, and one of the designers of the poll, said. “First is that the governor’s approval rating, since spring 2015, right after he assumed office, has remained relatively steady in the high 30s to low 40s, though at 36 percent it’s the lowest we have seen. Second is that his disapproval rating has grown consistently, from 31 disapproving in March 2015 to 58 percent today -- almost doubling.” 

Statewide, Rauner’s results show 36 percent somewhat approve or strongly approve of his performance, while 58 percent somewhat disapprove or strongly disapprove. That compares with a 40 percent approval rating and 55 percent disapproval rating last October.

Rauner fares worst with voters in the City of Chicago, where 64 percent disapprove of his performance while 31 percent approve. Rauner edges closer to positive territory in downstate Illinois, where 38 percent approve of the job he’s doing compared to 56 percent who disapprove. In the suburbs of Cook and the collar counties, he remains in negative territory with 58 percent disapproving and 37 approving. 

Speaker Madigan’s disapproval ratings also remain in negative territory with 61 percent somewhat disapproving or strongly disapproving and 26 percent somewhat approving or strongly approving. Madigan scored 63 percent disapproving overall last year with 26 percent approving. 

Madigan’s best job approval ratings came in the City of Chicago, where 28 percent approve and 60 percent disapprove. His suburban Cook and collar counties job approval ratings are 27 percent approve to 60 percent disapprove. Downstate voters were least generous in their assessment of Madigan’s tenure with 64 percent disapproving and 23 percent approving. 

Voters do not appear to have picked heavy favorites or shown a strong dislike for the remaining three legislative leaders. In the case of Senate President John Cullerton, 39 percent somewhat disapprove or strongly disapprove of his performance while 25 percent approve and 32 percent are not sure. Last fall, 41 percent disapproved, 26 percent approved, and 29 percent weren’t sure. 

Voters were also less conclusive about the job performances of Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno and House Republican Leader Jim Durkin. Leader Radogno’s job approval stands at 27 percent statewide, compared with a disapproval rating of 26 percent. An overwhelming 45 percent were not sure. In the case of Leader Durkin, 31 percent approved, 36 percent disapproved, and 29 percent were unsure. 

Poll results are available here

For more information, contact Tichenor at 618/453-4009 or Leonard at 618/303-9099. 

The margin of error for the entire sample of 1,000 voters is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points. This means that if we conducted the survey 100 times, in 95 of those instances, the population proportion would be within plus or minus the reported margin of error for each subsample. For subsamples, the margin of error increases as the sample size goes down. The margin of error was not adjusted for design effects. 

Live telephone interviews were conducted by Customer Research International of San Marcos, Texas using the random digit dialing method. The telephone sample was provided to Customer Research International by Scientific Telephone Samples. Potential interviewees were screened based on whether they were registered voters and quotas based on area code and sex (<60% female). The sample obtained 51% male and 49% female respondents. Interviewers asked to speak to the youngest registered voter at home at the time of the call. Cell phone interviews accounted for 60 percent of the sample. A Spanish language version of the questionnaire and a Spanish-speaking interviewer were made available. 

Field work was conducted from March 4 through March 11. No auto-dial or “robo” polling is included. Customer Research International reports no Illinois political clients. The survey was paid for with non-tax dollars from the Institute’s endowment fund. The data were not weighted in any way. Crosstabs for the referenced questions will be on the institute’s polling website, 

The Paul Simon Public Policy Institute is a member of the American Association for Public Opinion Research’s (AAPOR) Transparency Initiative. AAPOR works to encourage objective survey standards for practice and disclosure. Membership in the Transparency Initiative reflects a pledge to practice transparency in reporting survey-based findings. 

Simon Institute polling data are archived by four academic institutions for use by scholars and the public. The four open source data repositories are: the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research (, the University of Michigan’s Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (, the University of North Carolina’s Odum Institute Dataverse Network (, and the Simon Institute Collection at OpenSIUC ( 

Note: The “Simon Poll” and the “Southern Illinois Poll” are the copyrighted trademarks of the Board of Trustees of Southern Illinois University. Use and publication of these polls is encouraged -- but only with credit to the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at SIU Carbondale.