Almost half of Southern Illinois voters want Cook County to be its own state, according to poll results released Thursday by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at SIU.
Forty-nine percent of voters said they favor or strongly favor a proposal to make Illinois’ most populous county its own state, while 39 percent oppose or strongly oppose the idea.
Voters also said Southern Illinois tends to draw the short straw when it comes to state government spending. Nearly 80 percent of respondents said the region gets less than its fair share, and only 3 percent said Southern Illinois gets more than its fair share.
“Given that many political leaders and others constantly complain about Chicago, and about how badly Southern Illinois is treated by the state, and that significant portions of the media in Southern Illinois routinely echo that complaint, the belief in a downtrodden Southern Illinois has become a part of the conventional wisdom in this region,” visiting professor John Jackson said. “The belief is so embedded in the political culture that it undoubtedly is a root cause of the dominant attitude toward Cook County.”
Also in the poll, 51 percent of respondents said the federal government should pursue policies that would close the gap between America’s rich and poor, while 38 percent said those policies should not be pursued.
“For an area like Southern Illinois, which is often described with a shorthand, ‘conservative’ label, these results are quite surprising, since they certainly do not reflect a dominantly conservative view,” Jackson said.
Respondents were also asked about some loudly debated social issues. Eighteen percent of respondents said abortion should be legal in all circumstances, while 24 percent said it should be illegal in all circumstances. Slightly more than half said it should be legal under circumstances.
On same-sex marriage, 40 percent said there should be no legal recognition of relationships for same-sex couples. Nearly one-third said same-sex couples should be allowed to have civil unions, but not marriages, and 22 percent said they should be allowed to legally marry.
The poll took place Feb. 23 to 28, and consisted of responses from 400 registered voters in Illinois’ southernmost 18 counties. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percent.