Local

Another poll reveals half of Illinois residents want to leave state

Taxes, weather and government lead reasons

Illustration by R. Scott Helmchen – shelmchen@shawmedia.com
Illustration by R. Scott Helmchen – shelmchen@shawmedia.com

About half of Illinois residents would rather move out of the state than stay, with one in five saying they see themselves moving in the coming year, according to a new poll.

The poll of 1,000 Illinois voters conducted by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale concluded that 47 percent would like to move, and 51 percent would prefer to remain, with 2 percent undecided. Twenty percent of those polled said it was likely they would leave Illinois in 2017.

Twenty-seven percent cited taxes as the primary reason they would like to leave, 16 percent the weather, 15 percent the government and 13 percent job and education opportunities. Only 10 percent of those polled believe that the state is on the right track – 84 percent believe the state is headed in the wrong direction.

“There are lots of reasons why people want to leave. Not much can be done about the weather, but policymakers can do something about perceptions about the quality of services, tax competitiveness, tax fairness and educational and job opportunities,” institute Director David Yepsen said. “People often don’t feel they get good value for their tax dollars, and with frequent stories of public corruption or the large numbers of governmental units, it’s no wonder they feel that way.”

Results of the poll released Monday match those of previous polls by other firms, as well as both statewide and local data that show Illinois losing people to other states.

A Gallup poll released in 2014 concluded that 50 percent of Illinois residents would leave if they could – the state ranked first of all 50 for people who want out – and about 20 percent said they were likely to move in the coming year. One resident in four called Illinois the worst state in which to live. Both polls were conducted before the particularly bad “polar vortex” winter.

And residents are in fact voting with their feet. From government data to statistics shared by moving truck rental companies, Illinois has been at or near the top in recent years for people moving elsewhere.

This year, for the first time, the annual loss of Illinois residents to outmigration reached six figures, according to U.S. Census data – about 105,200 more people left Illinois than arrived between July 2014 and July 2015. Illinois led all 50 states in population loss during that time period. A 2015 analysis by the Center for Governmental Studies at Northern Illinois University cast some doubts on weather being a primary motivator – it found that most people leaving Illinois are settling in its bordering states.

McHenry County has lost population since the 2010 U.S. Census, according to annual estimates, a far cry from the boom years of the previous two decades. Should the trend continue or hold steady, it will be the first time the county lost overall population in a decennial census.

The Simon poll also found that 57 percent of people younger than 35 want to leave, while 58 percent of people between 35 and 50 want to leave. Only 29 percent of adults 66 or older want to leave.

“Policymakers argue over whether people are leaving or not. The most troubling finding in this poll is that so many younger people are thinking about it. That’s the state’s future,” Yepsen said.

Again, this finding mirrors a similar conclusion reached locally.

An economic development strategy for McHenry, Boone and Winnebago counties released earlier this year revealed the area lost almost 8 percent of its 25- to 44-year-old residents between 2010 and 2014, or about 12 times what the Chicago region lost in the same demographic. That age bracket is vital to planners because it’s the one that starts families, jobs and businesses.

Studies put Illinois in either first or second place when it comes to its property tax burden, and its almost 7,000 units of local government are far more than any other state.

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