CHICAGO — Voters in the city that launched President Barack Obama’s political career are split over whether to put tax dollars into luring his presidential library to Chicago.
Less than half of those surveyed in a Chicago Tribune poll — 47 percent — said they favored the idea of using tax money to attract or build the library, while 45 percent said they opposed it and 8 percent were undecided.
There was a gap along racial lines: 61 percent of black voters polled were in support and 60 percent of white voters opposed.
The survey was taken as the Barack Obama Foundation considers at least five bids to locate the library in Chicago against proposals to build it elsewhere, including New York and Hawaii.
Earlier this year, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan pushed to commit $100 million toward financing the library if it is built in Chicago.
Mr. Madigan argued that offering the money was “clearly a good investment for the future.”
The idea hasn’t made it very far. A House panel voted in April to advance the plan but drew criticism for offering tax dollars when the state is in dire financial straits.
Among those who support the plan, Mr. Obama’s place in history as the country’s first black president is a key selling point, the Tribune found in interviews with poll respondents.
Others said bringing the library to Chicago could help stimulate the local economy. Some poll respondents who opposed the plan expressed frustration with Mr. Obama and Democratic leaders in Illinois.
But even some Obama supporters said they don’t think the city or the state are in the financial position to spend money on the library.
Opponents also tended to dismiss claims that the library would be an economic boon for Chicago.
Older voters were less likely to support the idea of taxpayer funding than younger voters. Among those ages 18-35, 54 percent backed the concept.
That number was just 41 percent among those 65 and older. Men were split at 48 percent on either side of the question, while 47 percent of woman backed the idea and 43 percent were opposed.
The survey was conducted by APC Research Inc., which interviewed 800 registered city voters by cell phone and landline from Aug. 6-12. The poll has a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.
The concept of a presidential library dates to 1939, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt handed his papers and other historical materials over to the National Archives and pledged part of his estate in Hyde Park, N.Y., for a library and museum. He formed a nonprofit to raise money for the construction, setting a precedent that presidential libraries should be built with private money and administered by the National Archives.
In recent years, presidential library foundations have been required to create a private endowment to offset operating costs borne by the federal government. The George W. Bush Foundation raised more than $500 million to build his library and cover the endowment, which had to equal 20 percent of the construction cost. Mr. Obama is the first president who will need an endowment equal to 60 percent, under a law passed in 2008.
Experts estimate that construction of the Obama library could cost as much as $500 million.
In pushing for the $100 million incentive, Mr. Madigan noted that the state spent nearly as much on the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in downtown Springfield.United States - North America - Barack Obama - Illinois - George W. Bush - Chicago - Rahm Emanuel - Michael Madigan - Research Inc - Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum