I’m leaving Illinois

Matt Paprocki
4 min readJun 23, 2021


Well, I’m not leaving, but we have all heard this countless times — from our friends, our family and our donors. And we usually respond with something like, “I don’t blame you.”

Every time it feels like there is momentum on our side, and Illinois is about to make a positive change, it feels like the rug is pulled out from underneath us. Our response is to throw up our hands and say something like, “Liberals. They control this state and are ruining it.”

This is frustrating because Illinois is our home. A home is something sacred and needs to be protected.

In fact, the three biggest investments we make in our lives — our family, our friends and our community — we’ve made right here in Illinois.

But it’s hard not to want an alternative when we feel surrounded. We feel liberal policies are permeating our communities, and we as conservatives are outnumbered.

Yet the real question is, “How outnumbered are we?”

There is an answer. Every year Gallup does a survey of the political ideology of America. They ask a simple question: How would you describe your political views? Very conservative, conservative, moderate, liberal or very liberal?

And you don’t need me to tell you how the majority of the American population identifies. We hear about it every time we read the news, from both left- and right-leaning outlets: “America is becoming more and more liberal.”

So, when I looked at the data from Gallup, I was shocked.

The most common political ideology in the United States? Conservative, with 36%.

The second most?

Moderate, with 35%.

The smallest minority ideology is liberal, with less than 25%. That’s an entire 10 percentage points behind conservatives and moderates.

Think about what that says about the conservative psyche. Despite being at a natural advantage, we have let the current and temporary political situation become a permanent minority mindset.

Before I go on, let me clarify that the political ideology in Illinois is not dramatically different. The most common ideology is moderates at 35% with conservatives and liberals at a statistical tie of 25% and 28%, respectively.

If we are losing any battles in America, it is the battles for the hearts and minds of moderates.

How do we fix it? There are two simple and immediate solutions.

First, we need appeal to fairness and harm.

A group of social and cultural psychologists out of the University of Virginia, led by Jonathan Haidt, has studied thousands of individuals and found human beings, across all societies, all have a foundation of morality. This is nothing new. What is fascinating is that our morality is activated specifically by our political ideology.

There are five main moral foundations that we all feel: Harm, fairness, betrayal, authority and sanctity.

Conservatives feel a near equal appeal from all five of these moral foundations. It makes it pretty easy to hit a conservative’s morality. However, liberals feel a much more intense appeal to the issues of fairness and harm.

Don’t believe it? Think of any liberal protest that you have seen in the last year. Did any one of them have to do with loyalty? Any on sanctity? Not one.

So instead of making arguments to our base, if we want to make our ideas to literally everyone in the country, we need to frame all of our issues as fairness and harm.

Second, we need to fight for people — not against things

One of the most problematic parts of being in a minority is that you are constantly fighting against things.

Are we really going to teach kids how to protest in schools? What do we do to stop another gerrymandered map? (EvenBarack Obama supports us on that issue!)

Not to say these issues are not important, to the contrary, but it is impossible to build momentum when you are only fighting against things. Instead, we need to fight for people.

We need to fight for Barry, who was placed in foster care when he was 10 years old. On his 16th birthday he was told his mother had died: five years earlier!

The reason they didn’t tell him sooner? They were short staffed.

The state has the ability to increase public pension payments by 501%, but for the marginalized people in our society, such as a child in foster care, we take five years to inform them a parent has died.

That is morally wrong.

We need to fight for our neighbors and our friends, so when they tell us they are thinking about moving, our response is not, “I don’t blame you.” Our job needs to be to fight, and to do everything in our power to fight for a brighter day.

We do that by making our moral appeals to fairness and harm. We fight for people, not against things.

And when someone says they might leave Illinois, we say, “Stay. I will fight for you.”



Matt Paprocki

President @illinoispolicy the nation’s leading state-based think tank.