Springfield, IL: Opponents of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich are heaping scorn on his efforts to use a public-opinion poll to demonstrate voter support for his proposed state budget.
The poll, done by Washington-based Garin-Hart-Yang, contained loaded language that assured the appearance of overwhelming support for the governor, said Patty Schuh, director of communications for state senator Frank Watson, Republican leader of the Illinois senate.
"For some of the members, the use of a poll like this was a slap in the face," she said.
"This governor has a different approach. He's still continuing his gubernatorial campaign."
Criticism also came from a pollster quoted by the Chicago Tribune in covering the controversy. The paper reported that someone it uses for polling said that the governor's poll lacked neutrality.
Blagojevich is a Democrat who started his first term in office earlier this year.
Fred Yang, whose firm did the governor's survey, stood by the language in the poll, saying he asked questions framed to make the best case for the governor, as well as questions that made his opponents' arguments.
In one case, he asked people which of the following statements they agreed with:
"Statement A: Opponents say that Blagojevich's plan should have cut more deeply into spending and done more to stop the out-of-control spending that is the main reason for the deficit, and that his plan relies too much on one-time gimmicks and higher taxes that hurt businesses.
"Statement B: Supporters say that Blagojevich's plan closes a $5 billion deficit, cuts waste, invests in education and healthcare without increasing sales or income taxes, and that those who criticize his budget are the same people who helped create the crisis the state now faces, and represent the failed politics of the past."
One question asked people if they supported or opposed the following: "Eliminate outdated corporate loopholes - many of which were instituted when Illinois' economy was mainly industrial - that give special tax breaks to corporations."
Yang commented, "I'm not going to apologize. I presented our best case, and then I did it the Republican way. This is a legitimate form of research."
Tom Schafer, Springfield press secretary for the governor, said Blagojevich might do similar polls in the future. The $20,000 poll was paid for with campaign funds, not by the state.
"Whether you liked the way the questions were phrased or not, it's apparent there was overwhelming support for the governor," Schafer said. "The governor explained he wanted to get a sense of what the citizens of the state wanted."