A solid majority of Illinoisans want newly inaugurated Gov. Bruce Rauner to find common ground with the Democratic legislative majority rather than be confrontational, a new poll finds. However, most aren’t confident that the state’s leaders can avoid gridlock, and a majority believes the Democrats will be to blame.

“Do you think Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner should try to solve the state’s problems by working to find common ground with the Democratic-controlled legislature, or should he take a more confrontational approach with the Democrats in trying to solve this state’s many problems?” 1,026 registered voters were asked by We Ask America on Jan. 15.

An overwhelming 67 percent said they want Rauner to find common ground, while 22 percent said he should take a more confrontational approach. Another 6 percent said he should do both and 5 percent were unsure.

An almost unanimous 84 percent of Democrats and a strong 63 percent of independents wanted him to find common ground, while 76 percent of African-Americans and 67 percent of whites said the same.

Every demographic favored the common ground approach, although only a 49 percent plurality of Republicans did so, as opposed to 36 percent who wanted a more confrontational approach from the newly inaugurated GOP governor.

Next question: “Now we would like to know how confident you are that Gov. Rauner can avoid gridlock with the Democratic controlled House and Senate.”

Considering Illinois’ sorry history and the gridlock caused by divided government in our nation’s capital, just 31 percent of Illinoisans were confident that gridlock could be avoided, while 54 percent said they were not confident. The most “confident” group was Republicans, but even they were outnumbered 46-39 by Republicans who said they weren’t confident.

I think you might get a higher confidence level for compromise at the Statehouse, particularly among folks who have experienced progress under divided government in the past. Divided government rarely accomplishes sweeping changes, mainly because the parties are at odds on some issues, particularly social issues. But so far at least, Springfield has a much better track record than Washington, DC, which has a structural bias toward do-nothingness.

“Finally, if Illinois government gets mired in gridlock, who do you think will likely be the cause of the gridlock?” the pollster asked.

A 52 percent majority pointed their collective finger at the Democrats, while just 20 percent figured the Republican governor would be the cause and another 20 percent said “all of them.”

More specifically, 30 percent said they thought House Speaker Michael Madigan would be to blame, 3 percent said Senate President John Cullerton would likely be the problem and 19 percent said it would be Madigan and Cullerton together.

Even a 42 percent plurality of Democrats said their own party leaders would be to blame if the state crashes into the gridlock wall. The poll had a margin of error of +/-3 percent.

Meanwhile, a poll conducted by We Ask America on Jan. 14 had Gov. Rauner’s approval rating at 52 percent, with just 23 percent disapproving. Speaker Madigan’s numbers were almost the exact reverse, with 26 percent approving versus 55 percent disapproving.

And that’s not the only Democratic deficit.

The Democratic legislative leaders spent down their reserves during last year’s campaign and ended 2014 with a combined total of $2.8 million in their respective campaign bank accounts.

Normally, that wouldn’t be too bad. But not after Gov. Rauner dumped $20 million into his campaign coffers before the year ended. That gives him an advantage of better than 7-1.

Rauner has said he will use the money to communicate his message with voters and support his legislative allies. But lots of Springfield folks are wondering who’s going to get whacked by that cash mountain.

And for the first time in memory, the Illinois Republican Party ended a year with more than twice as much cash on hand than Madigan’s Democratic Party of Illinois: $566K for the ILGOP and $215K for DPI. That advantage is mostly due to contributions from Rauner himself.

If you were wondering why people like me believe Speaker Madigan will hold his fire for quite a while, all you have to do is look at the results from the above two polls and that cash disadvantage. Speaker Madigan knows he and his party will be the fall guy in any war. Rauner will have to take the first shot - and maybe the second and third.

And Madigan had better go out there and raise some more money. 

Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and CapitolFax.com.

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