Poll: Voters Sour Further on Rauner

03/18/2015 03:32 pm ET | Updated May 18, 2015

Shortly after his election, Bruce Rauner warned that "tough" decisions needed to be made to fix Illinois and that he would likely not be "Mr. Popularity" for a while.

That prediction continues to be prescient.

A new poll by Ogden & Fry on Friday, March 13, of 938 voters, commissioned by The Illinois Observer, finds that after his first 60 days in office, Rauner's approval stands at 40 percent, dropping three points since a February 11 Ogden & Fry survey measuring his first 30 days.

The bigger, more worrying number is the nine-point jump in the governor's disapproval rating, rising from 28.2 percent in February to 37.3 percent in March.


Moreover, Rauner's job approval rating is down a full 12 points from a January 14 poll conducted by We Ask America when it pegged his rating at 52 percent. And his disapproval rating is up 14 points from We Ask America's January survey when it hovered at just 23 percent.

Ogden & Fry pollster Tom Swiss attributes Rauner's weakening standing with voters to the reception of his proposed FY 2016 budget.

"Bruce Rauner has continued his aggressive government reforms from his "turnaround budget" to reducing by half municipalities' share of the state income tax," Swiss wrote in the polling memo. "Governor Rauner's vision of fiscal discipline is being met with heated rhetoric from local politicians, Democrats, and the media."

Rauner's fiscal plan, which state law requires to be presented accounting for only existing, authorized revenues, presented $6 billion in budget cuts, ranging from $2.7 billion from employee pension and health care benefits to developmental disabilities to substance abuse treatment to child welfare to breast cancer screenings to public universities and on and on.

The media has been since churning out a range of negative stories on those cuts that the governor had glazed over in his February 18 budget address.

In addition, Rauner has been on a tear since his budget speech traveling widely and often across the state pushing not his budget plan but his "empowerment agenda" that centers on "Right-to-Work" zones and other anti-union agenda items in front of friendly audiences.

But Rauner got an ear-full at the South Side Irish Parade in Chicago's 19th Ward on Sunday, which is stuffed with union households, being roundly booed by parade-goers.

A Capitol Fax commenter, South Sider, provided on Monday perspective on the reception that Rauner received.

"I've been attending the south side St. Pat's parade for 30 years and always pay attention to the reaction politicians get. I expected Rahm to get a rough ride this year given the high number of teachers, cops, and other city workers who live in the neighborhood. But Rahm might as well have been the first Irish pope compared to the reception Rauner got. The people marching with Rauner had to resort to chanting "Bruuuuuuuce" as he walked by to drown out the boos," South Sider wrote.

What is most striking about the sour reception is that the 19th Ward was one of Rauner's best performing wards in the City on November 4. Rauner took 20.6 percent citywide, but won 33.5 percent in the 19th Ward.

Rauner has said that he is willing to "take the arrows" over his decisions, but as experienced politicians know, the "arrows" launched by voters lack precision guidance and they also typically hit a chief executive's partisan allies.

To promote his legislative agenda, the governor has squirreled away $20 million in his campaign account to protect - or punish - GOP lawmakers. But as Chicago's recent municipal election demonstrates, an unpopular chief executive's pot of gold is no guarantee of electoral security for allies. The Rahm Emanuel-aligned Super PAC raised $2 million to bludgeon aldermanic foes and bolster friends, but it was mostly mayoral allies who were bloodied on February, many being pushed into runoffs or barely escaping a second round.

Unless Rauner can turnaround his drooping poll numbers, he will find it more difficult to round up Republican votes for his agenda when that agenda is perceived by GOP legislators as perilous to their own political popularity at home.

Still, the new poll is not all bad news for the governor.

A chunk of voters are still giving Rauner the benefit of the doubt with 22.5% who have no opinion yet on his performance, though that's down from 28.6% in February. That means the governor has an opportunity to add the undecided to his approval column, but he may have to alter his strategy to do so because the current public opinion trajectory is not his friend.

Stay tuned.