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ELECTION 2018: 3 out 4 in Illinois say state going in wrong direction

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Illinois Governor-Debate

NBC 5 Political Editor Carol Marin, far left, stands on the stage with Democratic gubernatorial challenger J.B. Pritzker, from left to right, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, candidate Kash Jackson and candidate state Sen. Sam McCann during a televised debate in the NBC studios, Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018, in Chicago. 

CHICAGO — A new poll from the University of Illinois at Springfield and NPR Illinois finds a potentially worrisome trend for Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner in his bid for re-election.

The survey found nearly 3 of 4 Illinois voters think the state is on the wrong track, while only 14 percent say it's headed in the right direction and 11 percent had no opinion.

That's not to say people think things are getting worse. The survey found 47 percent of those polled said things were about the same as last year,  though 37 percent say it's getting worse. Only 13 percent say the state is doing better than a year ago.

Attitudes about right track, wrong track are a frequent indicator of voter views about leadership, which is always an election-year concern when a contest is often viewed as a referendum on the incumbent.

The survey did a head-to-head poll of Rauner against Democratic challenger J.B. Pritzker, but the lengthy time the survey was conducted — from July 3 through Aug. 15 — and its dated nature makes those findings and other political questions of questionable value. Additionally, polling of the governor's race did not include Libertarian candidate Grayson "Kash" Jackson or Republican state Sen. Sam McCann who is running as the Conservative Party candidate.

But in measuring voter attitudes on issues, the results from the 717 people interviewed, can be looked at more confidently.

There is a point of good news for Rauner: The voter support for one of his hallmark political initiatives — term limits. Eighty percent of those polled backed legislative term limits compared to 14 percent who opposed them.

It could be an indication not only of Rauner's repetitive push for term limits, but also his massive spending to attack Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan. Rauner has used Madigan as a poster child for term limits. Madigan has been in the legislature since 1971 and has been speaker for all but two years since 1983.

Another finding in the poll showed 57 percent of voters favor a graduated-rate income tax based on levels of income — a key part of Pritzker's campaign platform that Rauner opposes. Another 36 percent favor the state's currently mandated flat-rate income tax.

The percentage of those supporting a graduated tax is relevant since it would take a constitutional amendment to implement it. If it advanced from the General Assembly it would take effect if approved by either three-fifths of those voting on the question or a majority of those voting in the election.

Meet Grayson 'Kash' Jackson, the Libertarian candidate for Illinois governor

In addition, the survey found 63 percent of those polled say immigrants help Illinois, while 20 percent said they hurt the state. But 57 percent of respondents said illegal immigration was "very" or "somewhat serious."

A total of 89 percent of those surveyed backed mental health background checks on all gun purchasers while 58 percent favored a ban on semi-automatic weapons and so-called assault rifles. Additionally, nearly half of those polled said access to mental health care was a problem in their community.

The survey was conducted by researchers at the UIS Center for State Policy and Leadership and had an error margin of 3.7 percentage points with a confidence level of 95 percent.

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