March 24, 2017

Poll: Half of Illinois voters want to keep Obamacare

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A poll by Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Paul Simon Public Policy Institute shows Illinois voters are divided on whether to repeal and replace the existing federal health care law.

Another part of the poll, conducted March 4-11, also found that about 40 percent of those surveyed blame the government for poverty. 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.

Since the landmark Affordable Care Act (ACA), known as Obamacare, was enacted in 2010, many congressional Republican members have vowed to repeal and replace the program. Under President Donald Trump’s administration, Congress is now debating the American Health Care Act (AHCA), the House Republicans' bill to “repeal and replace” the existing law. 

When asked, “Do you think Congress should vote to repeal the 2010 health care law, or should they not vote to repeal it?,” responses were varied. Just over one-third of those asked supported repeal (35 percent), half were in favor of retaining the current ACA (50 percent), and 15 percent had no opinion.

Within the 35 percent who supported a repeal, 29 percent wanted Congress to vote to repeal the legislation immediately, 68 percent supported repeal once an alternative was in place, and 3 percent either didn’t know or refused to answer.

Voters in Chicago were most supportive (60 percent) of the ACA, with those in suburban Chicago and the collar counties the second most supportive (52 percent). The lowest levels of support (39 percent) was in downstate areas of Illinois. Chicago residents were only 25 percent in support of repealing the law, while 34 percent of suburban residents and 44 percent of downstate residents responded “yes” to repealing.  The disparity was even more marked among those identifying with a specific political party. Only 13 percent of Democrats supported repealing the ACA; 31 percent of independents and 66 percent of Republicans supported repeal.

“The ultimate future of Obamacare, while unpopular with many people, has dramatic implications for the state of Illinois,” Linda Baker, university professor at the institute, said. “As a state that added more than 650,000 people to its Medicaid program through the ACA, if the Act is repealed and the state is expected to assume costs currently being borne by the federal government for those recipients, there will be enormous consequences for the state and for those who may lose coverage.”

The current health care reform debate is occurring at a time when Illinois legislators have the herculean task of solving an increasing structural deficit in the midst of almost a two-year budget stalemate. With Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democrat leadership in the General Assembly at odds with how to deal with that deficit and ultimately enact a budget, survey respondents were also asked how the budget stalemate was impacting their lives.

Respondents were asked, “Have you or someone in your immediate family been affected by the Illinois budget stalemate” Thirty-three percent said the budget crisis had affected them, with 62 percent responding that it had not. Of those affected, the largest groups of respondents argued that it resulted in K-12 funding cuts, job loss and cuts to needed social services.  Finally, the respondents were asked if families living in poverty are more or less affected by the impasse. More than half (56 percent) said families in poverty had been more impacted, with 22 percent saying that families in poverty were impacted less and another 22 percent saying they did not know.

Realizing there is a divide in the nation’s ideology on poverty, manifested in the debate on affordable and accessible health care coverage, the institute asked the same 1,000 Illinois voters about their opinions on causes of poverty. When asked, “Thinking about the causes of poverty in your area, please tell me one major reason that people are poor,” a plurality (41.4 percent) of respondents blamed the government. About one-fourth (23.3 percent) blamed social or cultural factors, and 16 percent viewed a lack of employment as the cause.  The remaining respondents placed blamed on medical factors (10.4 percent), educational factors (2.5 percent), and other factors (6.3 percent).

Asking for a secondary cause of poverty, respondents cited, in descending order, employment, social/cultural, education, government, medical and other. About 27 percent of respondents indicated employment as the secondary cause of poverty; 15.1 percent social/cultural factors; 13.2 percent education or relative lack of it; 12.5 percent government; 7.1 percent medical issues, and 24.9 percent listed some other secondary cause.

In both the initial and secondary questions, there were subcategories associated with the key causes. Under the cause of employment, job shortages and wage levels were the primary causes listed. There was no singularly significant factor mentioned in the social/cultural category, while in the education category, the poor quality of public schools was cited as the most significant factor.

The survey next asked respondents what types of government interventions would best alleviate poverty. Respondents offered a variety of answers, in the topical areas of employment, education, social services, and social/cultural. As with prior questions, each response had several subcategories. With respect to the area of employment, the most significant responses were in support of government intervention to create jobs/prevent outsourcing and to increase funding for jobs programs, at 8.8 percent and 8 percent, respectively.  Under the heading of education, the two most significant responses were at 13.9 percent for increased funding for job training programs and 12.8 percent in favor of improving the quality of education.

The survey next asked if respondents would be willing to pay more in taxes for poverty alleviation measures. Slightly more than 59 percent said they would be in support, with 35 percent opposed and 6 percent undecided. 

Poll results are available here.

For more information, contact Baker at 217/553-6660 or John Jackson, institute visiting professor, at 618/453-3106.

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.