Illinois voters back free meals for public school kids, oppose health care for undocumented seniors
Illinois voters back free meals for public school kids, oppose health care for undocumented seniors

As we’ve discussed before, competition for scarce state dollars is especially fierce this year in Springfield, as various groups jostle for cash as big surpluses and revenue increases begin to dry up.

A poll conducted by respected national Democrat Normington Petts in late February of 700 registered Illinois voters aimed to show which of these ideas had strong support and which did not.

The program with the most respondents saying they “strongly support it” is “Funding free breakfast and lunch for public school children in grades K through 12, regardless of income. It will cost Illinois about $200 million.” The poll found the idea had 64 percent overall support, with 39 percent strongly supporting it.

The poll was commissioned by a coalition called Healthy School Meals for All Kids, which pushes for free school meals and is no doubt pleased with the result. Thirty-two percent said they were opposed to the idea, with 17% saying they strongly opposed feeding all children at school.

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

The option “Increase the pay of state-funded home health workers from $20 an hour to $22 an hour. It would cost Illinois about $200 million” received 68% support, with 35% strongly in favor and 25% opposed.

It reads: “A $300 tax credit per child for families making less than $75,000 a year, or $50,000 if a single parent. It would cost Illinois about $300 million,” with 58% in favor and 35% opposed.

And it might not surprise you to know that at the 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. It will cost Illinois about $300 million,” which was opposed by 58% (40% strongly opposed) and supported by a minority of 33%. But supporters said last week they did not have a dollar figure for how much it would cost to re-enroll in the health insurance program.

When asked to name their top priority among these five programs, 34 percent of respondents said free school meals would be their top choice, topping the list. This was followed by summer youth work grants (20%). At the bottom is health insurance for undocumented seniors with just 6%.

The coalition did not provide the full cross-tabulations of the poll, but said in an accompanying memo that the free breakfast for all program had majority support in every region, age and demographic group.

His support was strongest among voters in Chicago (84%), Democrats (81%) and those aged 18-44 (74%). His weakest support was among rural voters (50%-46%), those over the age of 60 (51%-46%) and Republicans (52%-44%). The coalition did not secure a breakthrough for the over-65s.

The pollster said the survey was a hybrid of live interviewing from a landline, cellphone, text-to-web and online panel survey conducted among 700 registered voters in Illinois from 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 poll results, let’s go back to a column I wrote in late 2022.

When Normington Petts asked these same respondents, “What is the most important issue facing you and your household today?” the top category was “cost of living” at 49%. Crime is the number 1 problem for only 8% and immigration for only 5%.

The Normington Petts poll also found that 27 percent of Illinois residents think the state is moving in the right direction, while 60 percent say it’s on the wrong track.

Another recently released poll conducted for the Illinois Education Association by Normington Petts and Republican pollster Next Generation Strategies in late January found that 32 percent said the state was on the right track and 58 percent 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 9% right and 84% wrong in 2018), the results are down quite a bit from a high of 52%-48 % in an Emerson College study conducted in October 2022 that we discussed at the time.

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

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