Rich Miller

Rich Miller

Public wants free lunch, pollster finds

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By Rich Miller

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As we’ve discussed before, the competition for scarce state dollars is particularly fierce this year in Springfield as various groups elbow each other for money while large surpluses and revenue increases start to dry up.

A poll taken by respected national Democratic pollster Normington Petts in late February of 700 registered Illinois voters purports to show which of those ideas has strong support and which do not.

The program with the most respondents saying they “strongly support” it was “Funding free breakfast and lunch to public-school children in grades K through 12, regardless of income. This would cost Illinois about $200M.” The poll found the idea had 64 percent overall support, with 39 percent they strongly supported it.

The poll was commissioned by a coalition called Healthy School Meals for All Kids, which is pushing for the free school food and was undoubtedly pleased with that result. Some 32% said they opposed the idea, with 17% saying they strongly opposed feeding all kids at school.

RichMiller

Rich Miller

Overall, the most-supported proposal was “Giving grants to businesses to provide jobs for young people over the summer to help reduce violence and provide job training in underserved communities. This would cost Illinois about $150M,” at 75%, with 31% registering strong support, and just 19% opposed.

The option of “Raising the pay of state-funded home health care workers from $20 an hour to $22. This would cost Illinois about $200M,” came out at 68% support, with 35% strongly supporting it and 25% opposing it.

Next up was “A tax credit of $300 per child for families making less than $75,000 a year, or $50,000 if the parent is single. This would cost Illinois about $300M,” at 58% supporting and 35% opposing.

It may not surprise you to know that at the very bottom of the list was “Expanding the program that provides health insurance to undocumented seniors who would be eligible for Medicare if they were citizens. This would cost Illinois about $300M,” which was opposed by 58% (40% strongly opposed) and supported by a minority of 33%. Proponents, however, said last week they don’t have dollar numbers for how much reopening the enrollment to the health insurance program would cost.

When asked to identify their top priority among those five programs, 34% of respondents said free meals in schools would be their top choice, which led the list. That was followed by summer youth job grants (20%). At the bottom was health insurance for undocumented seniors at only 6%.

The coalition did not supply the poll’s full crosstabs, but claimed in an accompanying memo that the free breakfast for all program had majority support across every region, age and partisan demographic.

Its strongest support was among Chicago voters (84%), Democrats (81%) and those 18-44 (74%). Its weakest support was among rural voters (50-46), those age 60 and up (51-46) and Republicans (52-44). The coalition did not provide a breakout of 65 and up.

The pollster said the survey was a “hybrid live interviewer landline, mobile, text-to-web and online panel survey conducted among 700 registered voters in Illinois,” conducted Feb. 21-26. The margin of error was ±3.7%. Party affiliation was 37% Democrat, 37% Independent and 26% Republican.

While we’re talking about polling results, let’s revisit a column I wrote in late 2022.

When Normington Petts asked those same respondents, “What is the single most important problem facing you and your household today?” the top category was “Cost of living” at 49%. Crime was the number one issue for just 8% and immigration came in at just 5%.

The Normington Petts poll also found that 27% of Illinoisans thought the state was heading in the right direction, while 60% said it was on the wrong track.

Another recently released poll, taken for the Illinois Education Association by Normington Petts and Republican pollster Next Generation Strategies in late January found that 32% said the state was on the right track and 58% said it was on the wrong track.

While those results were much better than they were before Gov. JB Pritzker took office (the state bottomed out at a 9% right direction and an 84% wrong track in 2018), the results have dropped way down from a high of 52-48 in an Emerson College poll conducted in October 2022, which we discussed at the time.

Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and CapitolFax.com.

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