Simon poll shows community concerns

By Seth Richardson

Nearly 600 people responded to the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute in one of the largest community surveys it has conducted in recent years.

The Jackson/Williamson County Survey was released Wednesday. The Survey Research Office of the Center for State Policy & Leadership at the University of Illinois-Springfield conducted the survey in conjunction with staff from the Paul Simon Institute.

Questions covered included community views of education, government and civic participation, the economy and public safety.


One-quarter of residents said they were concerned with litter, while more than one-third said they were concerned with water quality.

More than two-thirds of respondents in both Jackson and Williamson counties gave positive feedback as far as the area being a place to live and raise children, while over half said the area is a good place to retire.

However, over half of respondents in both counties had negative evaluations as far as being a place to work.

“That’s something we see continuously throughout the survey,” Director of the Survey Research Office Ashley Kirzinger said. “In the economy section, the education section and the social well-being section. People are concerned about the economy of the region.”

The survey also asked if business and personal financial conditions were better one year ago. Kirzinger said people thought their individual finances were getting better, but the same could not be said for local business.

It also found crime and education were among the highest priorities for people in the counties. Jackson County also had a high number of people who wanted more museums in the area.

Kirzinger said she hopes local leaders will use the poll when forming policy.


“The saddest thing in the world for someone who does surveys for a living is to run the survey and then have the data sit in a file that no one ever looks at,” she said. “We take a lot of pride in the questions. The question development is done strategically and on purpose, and so we want to make sure local leaders are using the data.”

She said one example of policy makers taking a similar poll serious is one she previously helped conduct in Sangamon County. The poll found many people had high levels of food insecurity, which led to a community foundation filing for grants for community gardens.

The data is available for anyone else who might find it useful, she said.

“Somedays… I feel like I’m sitting in this data cave and I’m like hoarding this data, but I want people to use it,” she said. “So, any way we can make it come to life for them — and we understand that some people don’t quite understand how to analyze it, so we’re always willing to help.”

Paul Simon Institute Director David Yepsen said there is a possibility of repeating the poll in the future.

“It would depend on how the data gets used here,” Yepsen said. “If we see that it’s used by people, that would make it more likely that we would want to ask these people to replicate it.”

Political Science Professor Charles Leonard said there is a chance for repeating the poll depending on the response to the current one.

“If leadership does institute some changes that we respondents to the poll seem to want, we can see if in two years they noticed anything’s changed,” Leonard said. “So the movement is what’s really interesting and what’s exciting about having a longitudinal poll.”

To access the poll, visit the Paul Simon Institute’s website at