Battleground Polling, a non-partisan public opinion organization, announced today that it has conducted a statewide poll of Illinois Republican voters to learn a bit more about them beyond their voting history and to see what candidates they may be likely to support in the 2014 Republican Primary Election. To obtain its results, Battleground surveyed 400 randomly selected registered voters who participated in each of the last three Republican Primary Elections through automated telephone calls and an online survey method. The margin of error for each survey is +/- 4.8 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. The Poll was conducted from May 20 – May 27.
Part 1 – The Republican Electorate
For many years, various factions in the Illinois Republican Party have struggled against each other for dominance. While Republicans associated with the obstensively apartisan Tea Party Movement is the most recent of these factions to emerge, self-described movement conservatives have struggled with more moderate or “establishment” elements of the party associated with former Governors James Thompson and Jim Edgar since at least the 1980s. Since losing control of the Governor’s Mansion a decade ago, the moderate bloc of the Illinois GOP has seen its control over the party proper wane as well. Battleground Polling began its survey by asking respondents about their involvement in the Republican Party and how they generally identify themselves within the party.
What type of Republican would you describe yourself as?
Fiscal Conservative 15%
Social Moderate 4%
Are you currently a member of a Tea Party Organization?
Are you currently a member of a local GOP organization?
Predictably, self-described conservatives comprise nearly 2/3rds of the Illinois Republican Primary electorate. Less than ¼ of the respondents described themselves as any kind of moderate. Of some interest is the relatively small showing, at 15%, of Tea Party members among the electorate. While these numbers suggest that moderates outnumber tea party members among consistent Republican Primary voters, it is important to note that Tea Party Movement didn’t fully emerge until the 2010 election cycle. Because this survey targeted voters who voted in the 2012, 2010, and 2008 Republican Primary elections, “new” Republican primary voters who participated the 2012 and 2010 primaries but not the 2008 primary were not included in the survey. Thus, it is possible that this methodology under-sampled Tea Party-affiliated Republicans. Nearly one-third of Republicans surveyed are active in their local GOP organizations.
Looking at the 2014 Illinois Republican Party candidates for Governor, who would you support to represent the GOP in the 2014 General Election?
State Senator Bill Brady 19%
State Senator Kirk Dillard 14%
State Treasurer Dan Rutherford 27%
WLS Radio Personality Dan Proft 13%
Businessman Bruce Rauner 5%
As the sole Republican candidate holding a statewide elected office, State Treasurer Dan Rutherford is preferred by 27% of survey respondents, though his lead over three-time statewide candidate and 2010 nominee Senator Bill Brady is within the survey’s margin of error. 2010 gubernatorial aspirants Senator Kirk Dillard and WLS AM Radio Host Dan Proft polled at 14% and 13%, respectively. Unsurprisingly, political newcomer Bruce Rauner trails the pack with just 5% — however we expect this number to change as Mr. Rauner uses his considerable wealth to introduce himself to the electorate.
Though within the poll’s margin of error, Rutherford leads his four hypothetical rivals among conservatives, fiscal conservatives, moderates, and social moderates. His closest competition is with Senator Brady among self-described moderates where his lead is only 2%. We find Brady’s strength among self-described moderates somewhat surprising due to the Senator’s outspokenness on issues often closely identified with conservatives. In fact, most attribute Governor Quinn’s victory over Brady in 2010 to Brady’s inability to appeal to moderates. Senator Dillard does best among self-described social moderates, an important general election demographic.
WLS AM Host Dan Proft appears to enjoy strong support among Republicans self-identified with the Tea Party. As we noted above, Tea Party-affiliated Republicans comprised only a small portion of respondents, so Proft’s 35% of this segment may not translate to a large swing vote. Nevertheless, if Proft were to choose not to run, Senator Rutherford may be in the best position to benefit from Tea Partiers in search of a reliable candidate. Perhaps because of his ties to Republican establishment figures like former Governor Edgar, Senator Dillard is doing remarkably poorly among this segment of the party.
Rutherford and Dillard appear to be benefiting greatly from their familiarity with Republicans involved in their local organizations. Whether it be from their speeches on the annual Lincoln Day Dinner circuit, their hospitality booths at the State Fair, recommendations of local party leaders, or just having been around the GOP for a long time, Rutherford and Dillard are the favorites of respondents who are likely precinct captains or committeeman and who volunteer on behalf of the party and its candidates. While these activist Republicans comprise less than a third of respondents, they are hugely important in terms of gathering the signatures necessary for ballot access. These are also the Republicans most likely to contact their friends, family, and neighbors and encourage a vote for their preferred candidate. While this grassroots support can be partially replicated through direct mail, television advertisement and paid staff, it cannot be replaced. If Rutherford and Dillard can maintain their lead over the pack in this segment of the Party, it bodes well for their chances in the stretch. Of note, Senator Brady trails outside of the margin of error. This may suggest a “Brady Fatigue” among party regulars as the Senator embarks on his third gubernatorial campaign.
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