The election is more than six months away and we’ve already got the first poll of the season: A Rasmussen Reports survey that gives Bruce Rauner a narrow lead over Gov. Pat Quinn, indicates low approval ratings for Quinn and relatively strong support for public employee unions.

Only 39 percent approve of the job Quinn is doing as governor, while 56 percent disapprove. “This includes 8 percent who strongly approve of the governor’s job performance and 39 percent who strongly disapprove,” Rasmussen reports.

Conducted April 9-10 among 750 likely voters, the Rasmussen poll gives Rauner a 43-40 percent advantage over Quinn. (The same survey showed U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin with a 51-37 percent lead over his Republican challenger, State Sen. Jim Oberweis.)

But the same poll hints that the vehemently anti-union message Rauner delivered throughout the primary could cost him votes in the general election.

From the pollster:

“Fifty-four percent of Illinois voters at least somewhat favor unions for public sector employees, including 31 percent who strongly favor them. Forty-one percent oppose unions for these workers, including 21 percent who strongly oppose them.”

We’ve already seen evidence of that finding. Polls of likely Republican voters showed Rauner with a 20-point lead over State Sen. Kirk Dillard in the days just before the primary. But unions heavily backed Dillard and encouraged Democrats to take Republican ballots in the primary. The effort turned a 20-point poll advantage into a 2-point victory for Rauner.

After winning the Republican nomination in the March 18 primary, Rauner immediately began to soften his rhetoric on public unions. He has all but dropped the term “union bosses” – which he used as an epithet throughout the primary — from his campaign vocabulary. He repeatedly has described himself as “pro-union” and cited his grandfather’s membership in a trade union.

Other results from Rasmussen:

14 percent of Illinois voters have a very favorable opinion of Quinn; 38 percent very unfavorable.

16 percent have a  very favorable opinion of Rauner;  19 percent very unfavorable; 14 percent have never heard of him.

“At this early point in an election cycle, Rasmussen Reports considers the number of people with a strong opinion more significant than the total favorable/unfavorable numbers,” Rasmussen explains.

And as we learned last month, it’s unwise to make your voting decisions based on polling, so I advise taking this early poll’s results with a grain of salt the size of the Governor’s Mansion.

NEXT ARTICLE: Quinn, Rauner face off for first time at teacher union forum.>>> 

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