Skip links

New polls: Rauner in big trouble in Illinois; McCaskill, Hawley locked in tied Missouri Senate race

Two new Reuters/Ipsos/University of Virginia Center for Politics polls show Democrats well on their way to picking up a key gubernatorial seat, while both parties are locked in a tied race in one of the most pivotal Senate races in the country.

In Illinois, businessman J.B Pritzker (D) leads Gov. Bruce Rauner (R-IL) 50% to 30% among likely voters in the gubernatorial race, while Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley (R) has a nominal 45%-44% lead over Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) among likely voters in a race that will help decide the Senate majority. Both findings are generally in line with what other polls have found in each race; Pritzker has long seemed a favorite against Rauner in a race that the Crystal Ball rates as Likely Democratic, while the Missouri Senate race has been a pure Toss-up the entire cycle.

The two polls were conducted online and feature 968 likely voter respondents from Illinois and 1,111 likely voter respondents from Missouri. The Illinois poll was conducted from Sept. 27-Oct. 5, and the Missouri poll from Sept. 27-Oct. 7. More details, including tables, crosstabs, and methodological information for both of these polls, are available at:



During the recent battle over Brett Kavanaugh’s ultimately successful confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court, McCaskill voted no on his confirmation. The poll asked respondents whether McCaskill’s vote made them more or less likely to vote for her: 44% said they were much more likely (31%) or somewhat more likely (13%) to vote for McCaskill because of her opposition to Kavanaugh, and 46% said they were much less likely (39%) or somewhat less likely (7%) to vote for her, a split that mirrored the overall horse race. About nine in 10 Democrats (89%) said they were much or somewhat more likely to vote for McCaskill because of her vote, more than eight in 10 Republicans (83%) said they were much or somewhat less likely to vote for McCaskill over opposing Kavanaugh, and independents split 43% in the total more likely group to 36% in the total less likely group. Given that this poll showed the race as effectively a tie, similar to other recent polls, and because of the sharp partisan divisions and mixed independent feelings on the perceptions of McCaskill’s Kavanaugh vote, it’s hard to draw firm conclusions about a Kavanaugh effect clearly benefiting either candidate from these findings.

Both polls also featured named third party candidates in each race. In Illinois, Rauner is likely being hurt by the presence of state Sen. Sam McCann, a Republican running as a conservative alternative to Rauner. McCann is attracting 6% support in this poll, and crosstabs indicate he is winning 10% of the vote from self-identified Republicans but only 3% from self-identified Democrats. Meanwhile, Libertarian Grayson “Kash” Jackson gets 3%, but he does not appear to be taking disproportionately from Rauner over Pritzker even though Libertarians sometimes hurt Republicans more than Democrats. In any event, Pritzker would probably be favored over Rauner even in a two-way race, but McCann’s presence makes the incumbent’s path more difficult. In Missouri, three named non-major party candidates only took 3% in the polls combined and did not appear to be pulling disproportionately from either major party nominee.

Democrats currently hold 11 of Illinois’ 18 U.S. House seats, but they are targeting four GOP-held seats. This poll indicates that they might be able to make some gains: Democrats lead by a sizable 57% to 35% margin among likely voters in Illinois on a question asking voters whether they plan to vote for a Democrat or Republican in their local House race. Republicans lead the generic ballot among likely voters 46%-44% in Missouri, where Republicans currently hold six of the state’s eight U.S. House seats, although the Democrats do not appear to have a top-tier House target in Missouri (unlike Illinois).

Illinois and Missouri have historically ranked as two of the great bellwether states in national politics: Both have voted for the winning presidential candidate in 26 of the last 31 elections (since 1896). But in recent years, each has diverged from the national political average, with Illinois moving left and Missouri moving right. By 2016, the two states (which share a long border separated by the Mississippi River) had become almost mirror opposites on different sides of the nation’s political divide: Hillary Clinton won Illinois by 17 points, while Donald Trump won Missouri by 18.5 points. And yet, the states have each elected key statewide officials from both parties in recent years, with McCaskill winning a second term in a landslide in 2012 against a weak Republican opponent and Rauner beating unpopular incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn (D-IL) in 2014. But now both are in danger of being defeated by challengers from each state’s more dominant party. Rauner, in this poll and others, is in deep trouble, while McCaskill is locked in a Toss-up contest.

Approval of President Trump is, predictably, vastly different between the two states. In Missouri, Trump has mixed approval, with 50% approving and 49% disapproving. Meanwhile, Trump’s approval in Illinois is badly underwater, with 37% approving and 62% disapproving.

Reuters, Ipsos, and the UVA Center for Politics are collaborating this fall on several state-level polls. This is the third batch that has been released so far. Previously, this group released polls of five states in the Sun Belt and five mostly Midwestern states. More releases are planned in advance of the November general election. These individual state-level polls also will help supplement the data presented on the UVA Center for Politics/Ipsos Political Atlas, a new website that uses Crystal Ball ratings, poll-based modeling, and social media data to present the state of play in this cycle’s Senate, House, and gubernatorial elections. A holistic approach is also what we at the Crystal Ball apply to polling, and we try to take many different surveys into account as we formulate our ratings.