Illinoisans have nation’s lowest trust in state government by far

Illinoisans have nation’s lowest trust in state government by far

New polling data show nearly 3 in 4 Illinoisans lack confidence in Springfield.

Only a quarter of Illinoisans are confident in their state government, according to poll numbers released Feb. 17 by Gallup. This stands as the lowest rate in the nation by an eight-point margin, and is far lower than that of any other Midwestern state.

Illinoisans not only lack trust in their elected officials, the same 50-state poll conducted throughout 2015 revealed they also have the nation’s lowest confidence in their state economy.

Gallup speculates Illinoisans’ uniquely strong distrust of their government stems from the state’s long history of corruption.

With more than 1,600 convictions from 1976 to 2013, the Northern District of Illinois had the most federal public-corruption convictions of any judicial district nationwide, according to a report issued by the University of Illinois at Chicago. Illinois was home to the third-most public-corruption convictions of any state during the same time period.

Political researchers Dick Simpson and Thomas Gradel estimate that public corruption costs Illinois taxpayers $500 million per year.

To combat the state’s corruption crisis, they recommend redistricting reform and term limits, among other changes. Gov. Bruce Rauner has been pushing for both, but has been met with a cold shoulder from the Democrat-controlled General Assembly.

The fight for term limits alone is a prime example of why the idea of honesty in public service is laughable to so many Illinoisans.

Before Rauner took office, a petition drive to put term limits on the state ballot in November 2014 collected nearly double the 300,000 signatures required by law. But a lawsuit filed by a longtime associate of House Speaker Mike Madigan – who has held his seat in the Illinois House of Representatives for more than four decades – prevented voters from being heard on the matter.

Instead, the ballot contained three nonbinding survey questions aimed at boosting Democratic turnout.

Gallup also floated the idea that political gridlock, which has left Illinois without a budget for the past eight months, may contribute to low levels of confidence.

But while the current budget stalemate likely has had some effect on residents’ confidence in Illinois government, when Gallup conducted a similar poll in 2013, Illinois was still home to the lowest trust in state government by a wide margin.

The state’s confidence problem clearly has little to do with the current fight over the state’s fiscal trajectory, and more to do with decades of political graft.

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