Is Gov. Rod Blagojevich's administration just as corrupt or even more corrupt than former Gov. George Ryan's crew? A new poll finds a plurality of Illinoisans would answer "yes" to that question.
A poll by the Glengariff Group found that 43 percent of Illinoisans believe the Blagojevich administration is as corrupt or more corrupt than George Ryan government, while 41 percent said there is less corruption. The findings are surprising because Ryan was recently convicted of all charges in a federal criminal trial, while no officials of Blagojevich's administration have even been indicted.
The Glengariff survey of 600 registered voters was taken June 1-3 and had a margin of error of 4 percent. The poll was not taken on behalf of any candidates.
Blagojevich leads Topinka by seven points in the poll, 41-34. That represents a ten-point drop for Topinka from an early April poll, when Glengariff had the Republican challenger leading the Democratic incumbent 44-41. Since then, the governor let loose with a barrage of negative TV ads which have done what they intended to do - drive Topinka's numbers down.
However, Topinka is ahead 53-25 among voters who believe Blagojevich's administration is as corrupt or more corrupt than Ryan's. Those who think there has been less corruption prefer Blagojevich over Topinka 60-23. "The corruption factor appears to be the great divide in this race," claims Glengariff president Richard Czuba.
The results show that hammering away at the corruption issue may be a path to victory for Topinka. Blagojevich will have to convince voters that Topinka is just another George Ryan and hope demographics and superior fundraising and organization will put him over the top. But stories uncovering corruption in his administration are trickling out every few days, and that pace will undoubtedly quicken as the campaign progresses. And nobody really knows what the feds and the state attorney general have up their sleeves.
The poll found that 35 percent of Democrats, 56 percent of Republicans and 43 percent of independents thought that corruption was the same or worse than during Ryan's tenure. On the other hand, 53 percent of Democrats, 30 percent of Republicans and 36 percent of independents thought that the corruption situation had improved under Blagojevich. 40 percent of African-Americans and 42 percent of whites thought it was worse, while 44 percent of blacks and 42 percent of whites believed it was better. Keep in mind that crosstabs have a higher margin of error.
The survey also shows big trouble for Topinka with Republicans since the last Glengariff Group poll was taken in April, when 81 percent of Republican voters supported her candidacy. Now, just 65 percent back their party's standard-bearer, a likely result of the governor's TV ads, which appear to be a lot better done than most of the ads run by her primary opponents. The good news for Topinka is that her support among independents is still the same - 39 percent.
Back in November, Glengariff had Blagojevich at 39 percent, and he was at 41 percent in April, so he hasn't moved much at all. "While the challenger's numbers have taken a hit," pollster Czuba said in a press release, "Rod Blagojevich appears to be stuck at 41 percent of the vote and unable to translate undecided voters into his camp." Right now, though, the main task at hand is to drive Topinka's negatives up so high that she can't recover. However, an incumbent whose administration is unfavorably likened to a convicted former governor and who is stuck at 41 percent is not in the greatest shape, no matter how much money he has.
Blagojevich leads in Chicago 60-17 and in suburban Cook County 43-28, according to Glengariff. Back in April Topinka had a big lead in suburban Cook, 50-33, so this is another ominous development for her. The Democratic governor even has a slight lead in the Republican collar counties, 36-34 - a likely result of Topinka's big drop in GOP support and strikingly bad news. In April, Topinka had a 51-35 lead over Blagojevich in the collars. Topinka leads in all downstate regions.
They both have problems, and when that happens the solution is usually negative attacks against the other side. Buckle up.
Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter. He can be reached at thecapitolfaxblog.com