Longtime readers of TAC are familiar with many of the problems confronting the State of Illinois, mainly due to the diligent postings of fellow Sucker State resident Don McClarey. However, I have to admit I was taken aback by the results of a recent Gallup Poll finding that, when it comes to discontent among its residents, Illinois is literally in a class by itself:
The phrase “if you don’t like it, then you can leave” might be a dangerous thing to say in Illinois.
According to a recent Gallup poll, the state would lose a quarter of its population if every resident who didn’t like it decided to leave it. The poll asked survey-takers to rate their state as a place to live, and Illinois had the highest percentage of people who said it is the worst place to live, at 25 percent.
Illinois was followed by Connecticut and Rhode Island, 17 percent of whose residents rated their states as the worst place to live.
The states with the highest rates in the “best possible state to live in” category were Texas (28 percent), Alaska (27 percent), Hawaii (25 percent) and Montana (24 percent). Only 3 percent of Illinoisans put their state in the same category.
A follow-up story on the poll published today reveals even worse news for the powers that be in Illinois: half of Illinois residents polled say they would leave the state if they could, and nearly one in five Illinois respondents (19%) said they intended to move out within the following 12 months. Connecticut and Maryland placed second and third (49% and 47%, respectively) in the percentages of residents expressing a desire to leave, while only Nevada edged out Illinois in the percentage of residents stating that they planned to move in the coming year (20%). States with the most contented residents included Montana, Hawaii and Maine, where only 23% of each state’s residents expressed any desire to leave.
There were five possible responses to the poll question “How would you describe the state where you live?” — worst state to live in, as good a state as any to live in, one of the best possible states to live in, the best possible state to live in, or no opinion.
The poll found that Illinois is by far the most despised state in the Union, with 25% of residents polled describing it as the worst state to live in. Rhode Island and Connecticut are a distant second with 17% rating them as worst; Mississippi is third with 15% saying it was the worst state. Other states with double-digit “worst” scores were Louisiana (13% ), New York (12% ) and New Jersey (10% ).
When we compare the percentages of “haters” (those who described their state as the worst) to the percentages of “lovers” (those who said their state was one of the best, or the best) in each state, we discover that that Illinois is the only state in the union in which haters (25%) outnumber lovers (16% one of best + 3% best), though a slight majority, 54%, say it’s as good as any. Rhode Island has an equal percentage of lovers (14% + 3%) and haters (17%). In every other state, lovers significantly outnumber haters. Even the notoriously crazy/dysfunctional state of California is far more loved (51%) than hated (6%), as is the ultimate nanny state of New York (41% loved and 12% hated).
The most loved states in the Union by the above metric are Alaska and Montana, where 77 percent of residents think their state is either one of the best or the best. Other highly loved states include Utah (70 percent), Wyoming (69 percent), Texas (68 percent) and Hawaii (68 percent).
One might be tempted to think that the recent harsh winter, or the relative lack of scenery, are a big reason Land of Lincoln residents hate their state. However, a comparison between Illinois and nearby Midwestern states with similar climates, topographies and economies reveals that residents of these other states are significantly happier, or at least more comfortable, with life in their states.
In Iowa, lovers are in the majority at 56%, while in Wisconsin, lovers are a plurality (49%). In Missouri and Indiana, about two out of three residents say their states are as good as anywhere else (66% in MO and 63% in IN), roughly one in three say they love their state (29% in MO and 34% in IN), and only a tiny minority (3% in both states) hate them. Michigan, a Rust Belt state long weighed down by economic troubles and the collapse of Detroit, has a relatively high percentage of haters at 9%, but 61% of Michiganders still say it’s okay and 28% love it.
Of course, the big question is why Illinoisans hate their state with such a passion and why such a disproportionate percentage say they want to get out. As noted above, climate and topography are likely not the problem, nor is a lagging economy alone to blame. High taxes, corruption and lack of trust in state government are very big factors, though states with higher taxes and equally bad or worse reputations for corruption did not register nearly as much hostility.
Personally, I suspect that many of the Illinois haters are persons of conservative political and social convictions who are fed up with its ironclad one-party rule and sharp turn to the left in recent years. With the sole exception of enacting a concealed firearms carry law — a law that likely would never have seen the light of day without a strong push from a federal appeals court — state policy has moved consistently in the direction of ever-increasing nanny-state liberalism, while the Republican Party has collapsed into irrelevance. Like their counterparts in New York, pro-life, pro-Second Amendment and pro-traditional marriage residents of Illinois are getting the message that they “have no place” here, so I would not be surprised if many of them have either left or are planning to. Likewise, business owners and others who want to improve their lot financially are getting the message that if they stay, the State will likely keep trying to claim more and more of their income in the form of taxes, licensing fees and other fees.
Some might dismiss these poll results as merely an expression of the natural tendency to assume that the grass is greener elsewhere, or as mere carping by unenlightened citizens who don’t know how well off they really are. Others point out that many of the people who claim to hate their home states will nonetheless stay due to family and employment commitments. It’s true that consideration for spouses and children who don’t want to be uprooted, for elderly parents who need care, or for a loyal customer or client base built up over many years will probably keep many residents of Illinois (and other strongly disliked states) in place for years to come. However, those “anchors” won’t last forever — children grow up, parents and grandparents pass away, workers reach retirement age, or their jobs simply vanish — and once they are gone, a lot of people will be gone with them. As Gallup notes (emphasis mine):
Gallup’s 50-state poll finds some states far better positioned than others to retain residents, and thus possibly attract new ones. This is evident in the wide variation in the percentages of state residents who say they would leave their state if they could, as well as in the percentages who say they plan to move in the next year.
Nevada, Illinois, Maryland, Louisiana, Mississippi, New York, and Connecticut all appear particularly vulnerable to losing population in the coming few years: high percentages of their residents say they would leave if they could, and larger-than-average percentages say they are at least somewhat likely to do so in the coming year. At the other end of the spectrum, Texas, Minnesota, and Maine have little to fear. Residents of these states are among the least likely to want to leave and few are planning to leave in the next 12 months.
If these states sound familiar to readers of Gallup’s previous 50-state poll articles, it’s because several of them also appear at the top or bottom of the states for resident satisfaction with state taxes, state government, and overall perceptions of how their state compares to others as a place to live. Texas is in the top 10 on all three, while Illinois, Rhode Island, and Maryland rank in the bottom 10 on all three.
With that in mind, I think the results of this poll should be a serious wake-up call to all voters, officeholders, and concerned citizens of Illinois and other disliked states that the status quo cannot continue indefinitely.
I now invite readers to share their reasons why they love or hate their home state, whether or not they have moved or plan to do so, and why.