The Views of Top Economics and Policy Professors in Illinois


Poll: Illinois’ Top Economics and Policy Professors Support Infrastructure Investment, Anti-Discrimination Laws, Public Education, Marijuana Legalization, and Action on Climate Change

Respondents more mixed on minimum wage laws and labor unions


A new poll of academics from accredited university programs in Illinois reveals areas of broad agreement among the state’s top economic professors and policy professors.

Economics and policy academics in Illinois are strong supporters of infrastructure investment, anti-discrimination laws, public education, marijuana legalization, and action on climate change. They are more mixed on policies and institutions that address income inequality, such as minimum wage laws and labor unions. Finally, a significant majority of Illinois’ economics and policy academics do not think that elected officials generally have a strong understanding of economics.

Conducted by the Illinois Economic Policy Institute (ILEPI) in August 2015, the survey contained 25 questions about general public policy issues, Illinois-specific policy issues, and the field of economics.

Nearly 100 Illinois academics voluntarily participated in the survey. Relative to the actual number of economics and policy academics at accredited universities in Illinois (437), the 94-person sample size produces a margin of error of ±9.0%. Although the sample size limits the ability to draw definitive conclusions, it can be stated with relative confidence that a majority of the state’s top economics and policy academics hold a particular position when the results show overwhelming consensus.

“The clearest example of consensus is regarding infrastructure investment,” said Frank Manzo IV; Policy Director of the Illinois Economic Policy Institute. “95 percent of Illinois’ top economics and policy academics support the government investing in roads, bridges, and public transportation systems. Nine-in-ten think Illinois should increase its own transportation infrastructure investment. And two-thirds say that such increases would improve employment in Illinois and grow the economy.”

The findings are similar for anti-discrimination laws (88 percent support), k-12 public education (81 percent support), marijuana legalization (73 percent support), and implementing a carbon tax (84 percent support).

The minimum wage and labor unions, on the other hand, are more contentious.

“Economics and policy academics actually express marginal support in favor of minimum wage laws,” reported Manzo. “In fact, they think it should be $9.45 an hour on average in Illinois. But only one-in-four of them say that raising the minimum wage would improve employment and grow the economy.”

“The same is basically true for labor unions,” continued Manzo. “While the state’s economic experts tend to support unions in general, they think unions should have less influence in Illinois. When asked about the local ‘right-to-work’ zones proposed by Governor Rauner, however, four out of five do not think they would improve employment and grow the economy.”

One issue that a majority of the state’s top economics and policy academics do agree on: politicians. Fully 78 percent of respondents do not think that politicians and elected officials have a strong understanding of economic principles.

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The full report can be found online at this link.

A publicly available spreadsheet with full responses is available online at: https://goo.gl/vczgdm.

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