Survey Says: The Views of Top Economics & Policy Professors in Illinois

A new poll finds that Illinois’ top economics and policy professors strongly support infrastructure investment, public education, immigration, and international free trade agreements. The state’s economic and policy experts also marginally support labor unions and minimum wage laws, with most in favor of raising Illinois’ minimum wage. Finally, a significant majority do not think that politicians have a strong understanding of economic principles. 

PDF: The Views of Economics and Policy Academics in Illinois: 2016-2017 School Year


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

The survey was conducted by the Illinois Economic Policy Institute in August 2016. Results from the 24-question poll reveal areas of broad agreement on public policy issues.

Over 100 Illinois academics voluntarily participated in the survey. Relative to the actual number of economics and policy academics at accredited colleges and universities in Illinois (578), the 110-person sample size produced a margin of error of ±8.4%. Although the sample size limits the ability to draw definitive conclusions, it can be stated with 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 on infrastructure investment. 96% of Illinois’ top economics and policy academics support the government investing in roads, bridges, and public transportation systems. Furthermore, at least 87 economics and policy professors (79%) think Illinois should increase transportation infrastructure investment, and most support the Safe Roads Amendment on the ballot this November (59 support vs. 25 oppose).

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The vast majority of economic and policy experts also say that immigrants today strengthen Illinois because of their hard work, talents, and contribution to the economy rather than burden the state because they take jobs, housing, and health care away from residents.

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In addition, the economics and policy academics broadly support international trade. A relatively strong consensus exists that international free trade agreements are a net positive because they lower prices for consumers and allow American companies to export goods and services abroad, creating more jobs than are lost. Only a small number of academics say that the agreements do more harm than good because they move American manufacturing jobs abroad and lower wages.

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Views on labor unions and the minimum wage laws are more mixed. The “family feud,” however, is minimal on these issues. Experts express marginal support in favor of both unions and the minimum wage: 55% support unions while 18% oppose them and 58% support minimum wage laws while 26% oppose them.

In fact, 66 experts say that the minimum wage should be higher than its current level of $8.25 in Illinois – including 19 who think it should be $15.00 an hour or more and 47 who favor smaller increases. On average, top economics and policy academics report that they think the minimum wage should be $9.74 per hour.

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A majority of the state’s top economics and policy academics support a mix of tax increases and spending cuts to help balance the state budget. Most support a constitutional amendment to allow a progressive income tax and raise taxes on the rich, while others say that lawmakers should reinstate the 5.0% income tax to help balance the state budget.

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When presented with a list of ten items and asked which would improve employment and grow the economy in Illinois, a strong consensus emerged on three policies in particular: increasing investment in highways and bridges, increasing investment in public transit systems, and expanding enrollment in early childhood education programs. About four out of every five economic and policy experts in Illinois do not think that reducing unionization through a “right-to-work” law or lowering workers’ compensation eligibility would improve Illinois’ economic prospects.

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Finally, one issue that a majority of the state’s top economics and policy academics really agree on? Politicians. Fully 81% of respondents do not think that politicians and elected officials have a strong understanding of economic principles.


The full report can be found online at this link.

A publicly available spreadsheet with full responses is available online at: http://goo.gl/iUUDWq.

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