With barely four weeks left in the 2010 election cycle, Democrat Pat Quinn (43 percent) has opened up a six point lead over Republican Bill Brady (37 percent) in the Illinois race for governor, according to the latest Suffolk University poll. Independent Scott Lee Cohen has 7 percent, Green Party candidate Rich Whitney polls 3 percent, and Libertarian Lex Green gets 1 percent, while just 8 percent remain undecided.

Meanwhile, it’s nearly a dead heat in the race for the U.S. Senate. Republican Mark Kirk (42 percent) edges Democrat Alexi Giannoulias (41 percent), though the race is well within the statistical margin of error. Green Party candidate LeAlan Jones has 4 percent, followed by Libertarian Mike Labno, with 3 percent. There are 10 percent still undecided.

“Pat Quinn’s TV ads have put Bill Brady under a microscope and are shifting voters’ focus away from Quinn’s slow progress in dealing with the mess he inherited from Governor Rod Blagojevich,” said David Paleologos, director of the Political Research Center at Boston’s Suffolk University. “Quinn’s efforts to focus voters on Brady’s negatives are designed to make Quinn look better in comparison, while solidifying his base of support.”

Quinn’s margins over Brady among ages 18-44 years (+25 points), Cook County voters (+30 points), and minority voters (+38 points) are the driving forces behind the Democrat’s edge in the statewide numbers.

Blagojevich was impeached and removed from office amid a federal probe into his alleged ‘pay-to-play’ political practices, which allegedly included an attempt to sell an appointment to the U.S. Senate seat previously held by Barack Obama.

Hillary Clinton (61 percent favorable – 32 percent unfavorable) is the most popular politician of the eight public figures polled. This mirrors findings in the Suffolk University poll of Pennsylvania likely voters last week. Among other figures, favorite son Obama scores a 52 percent favorable – 41 percent unfavorable rating in Illinois. All other candidates for statewide office have higher unfavorable ratings than favorable, including former Governor Rod Blagojevich, whose favorability rating is just 10 percent. Blagojevich’s unfavorable rating is 79 percent.

In the races for Attorney General and Secretary of State, Democrats Lisa Madigan and Jesse White lead their Republican and other opponents handily, while Republican Judy Baar Topinka leads for Comptroller. More voters for State Treasurer are undecided (36 percent), although Republican Dan Rutherford (32 percent) leads Democrat Robin Kelly (26 percent).

Few believe that the recession is over in Illinois. Only 12 percent indicate it is, while 83 percent say it’s not over. And when likely voters were asked if the job situation will improve in the next six months, only 35 percent indicated yes, while 54 percent said no.

Current issues in Illinois that were polled included marriage equality for same-sex couples, of which 37 percent of likely voters stated they favor absolute prohibition of any legally recognized union, and 30 percent of respondents said they favored legal recognition of marriage between people of the same sex, while 24 percent said they preferred the recognition of civil unions. Other issues included term limits for Congressional officials. Sixty-nine percent of likely Illinois voters said that there should be federally mandated term limits for Congressional officials of no more than six terms of two years each.

In the bellwether Randolph County, both races remained close. In the Senate fight Kirk led Giannoulias 35 percent to 30 percent, while in the race for Governor, Brady led Quinn 38 percent to 37 percent. In the 2006 gubernatorial election in Illinois, Randolph County was within one percentage point of the state total for all gubernatorial candidates.

Methodology

The statewide survey of 500 Illinois likely voters was conducted Sept. 30 – Oct. 3, 2010. The margin of error is +/- 4.4 percent at a 95 percent level of confidence. The Randolph County bellwether included 300 likely voters polled 10/2-10/3. Bellwethers are designed to predict outcomes, not margins. Marginals and full cross-tabulation data will be posted Monday Oct. 4 at noon on the Suffolk University Political Research Center Web site: www.suffolk.edu/college/1450.html. For more information, contact David Paleologos at 781-290-9310.