The state’s financial condition is more dire than the public can grasp, according to five years’ worth of public opinion research. Political science professors John S. Jackson and Charles W. Leonard at Southern Illinois University conduct a survey every year, and the results are the same every time: People don’t like taxes – only 9.7 percent this year say more revenue alone is the way to deal with the state’s deficit – but they don’t want to cut spending on elementary and secondary schools (78 percent oppose cuts), universities (56 percent oppose cuts) roads, public safety (56 percent oppose cuts), natural resources (61 percent oppose cuts ) or even help for the poor (64 percent oppose cuts).
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The public believe cutting waste is the answer – 52.3 percent believe it is the answer, but the trouble is defining waste. “At my end of the state, the question of closing the Tamms Prison, for example, has been extraordinarily conflict-ridden. Was that waste, having that prison there? Most people down here don’t think so,” Jackson said. Jackson says the public is misled by campaign rhetoric which promises simple solutions, though the surveys show some movement toward an understanding of the state’s problems. The findings are contained in The Simon Review: The Climate of Opinion in Illinois 2010-2014.