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Tribune/WGN-TV poll: May 2013

WGN and Chicago Tribune polled city residents on their feelings about the mayor and crime in the city.

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Mayor Rahm Emanuel has rolled out a stream of what he’s billed as pro-business initiatives and stood with dozens of corporations making jobs announcements during his first two years in office, but a clear majority of voters in a new Tribune/WGN-TV poll don’t think he’s done enough to revitalize the city’s economy.

Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed gave a thumbs-down to the mayor’s economic development efforts, compared to 28 percent who said they were satisfied.

Those findings may reflect the continued high jobless rate in Chicago, where U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics show unemployment was 10.4 percent in March. That’s the same level as March 2011, though it’s also a full percentage point less than the 11.4 percent rate when Emanuel took office in May 2011.

Dissatisfaction with the mayor on the economy stretched across all lines of race, ethnicity, income, age and gender.

Those who most significantly disapprove of Emanuel’s work to enhance economic growth are African-American, lower-income and younger voters. Fully 73 percent of black voters, 70 percent of voters earning under $50,000, and 69 percent of those from age 18 to 35 think Emanuel has not done enough.

Last year, the unemployment rate for Illinois teens was 27 percent, 15 percent for those in their early 20s and 16 percent for the state’s African-American residents of all ages.

Because of strides in automation and technology, “coming out of recovery, companies find they don’t need to hire,” said Kurt Rankin, an economist for PNC Financial Services Group, who noted younger workers who are new to the job market tend to feel the brunt of it.

African-American voters have become more negative in their view of Emanuel’s overall job performance. The disapproval among younger voters also is politically troubling for a mayor who has sought to make Chicago a center for startups by taking steps to encourage graduates of the region’s universities to settle here, rather than head to either coast.

At a business gathering Thursday, for instance, Emanuel talked up the development of protected bike lanes near the 1871 tech hub and the decision to give 250 free tickets to this summer’s Lollapalooza music festival to University of Illinois engineering students so they will check out the city.

“We have funded the West Coast out here: I’m done doing it,” he said, drawing applause at the event for midsize businesses.

Setting the stage for job growth has been a major component of Emanuel’s agenda, including development of a 10-point plan, the wooing of 14 company headquarters and the launch of programs aimed at cutting city red tape.

“I don’t create jobs,” Emanuel said at Thursday’s program. “I create the environment, the atmosphere and the platform for success in the private sector.”

But even among voters who said they approve of Emanuel’s overall job performance as mayor, 52 percent said he has not done enough to improve the city’s economic climate. The poll of 800 Chicago voters has an error margin of 3.5 percentage points. Interviewers conducted the phone survey from April 30 to May 6 as Emanuel approached the middle of his first term, a time when attitudes toward the mayor have become more hardened as voters look for results from City Hall.

In attempting to reshape the selling of Chicago to outside businesses, Emanuel has restacked various economic development groups with leadership from allies in his own circle of wealthy venture capitalists.

World Business Chicago, the city’s business attraction arm, is headed by Michael Sacks, CEO of Grosvenor Capital Management LP, who regularly advises Emanuel. Another adviser, venture capitalist Bruce Rauner, had until recently headed up Choose Chicago, the city’s tourism marketing arm. Rauner gave up the post as he heads toward an expected run for the Republican nomination for governor.

And Emanuel has fostered myriad relationships with corporate citizens. On the one hand, he’s tapped them for financial support on such projects as hosting the NATO conference or tackling the city’s homicide problem, and on the other hand, he’s stepped up with them to announce plans to open stores, add jobs or participate in city projects.

His calendars typically are full of appointments with Chicago business titans. And his campaign has drawn broad support from businesspeople, including some who require city permits to move ahead with projects. Emanuel has said their backing does not influence his decision-making.

The poll found that slightly more than 4 in 10 voters said Emanuel’s relationship with business was “about right.” While the mayor has developed a lengthy list of business connections, 27 percent of the voters polled said they thought he was not close enough. Only 17 percent of the survey group said they thought Emanuel was too close to the city’s business community.

A closer look at the numbers shows 36 percent of African-American voters and 42 percent of Latino voters said they thought Emanuel’s relationship with business was not close enough. That may reflect the belief that closer ties between the mayor and business would lead to more job opportunities.

“They probably are the people who have more to lose in a stagnant economy,” said Allen Sanderson, a University of Chicago economist.

To his mind, Emanuel’s performance on economic development should be judged in the same way as Olympic diving, in which the degree of difficulty plays a role.

Inheriting a City Hall without much left in the piggy bank in a state with horrendous fiscal problems during a period of economic weakness “is as tough as it gets,” Sanderson said.

Chicago residents are unlikely to feel better off any time soon.

University of Chicago economics professor Austan Goolsbee, who worked with Emanuel in President Barack Obama’s White House and appeared with him on the panel Thursday, said he expects a national economic growth rate of 2 to 21/2 percent in the coming year.

That range “doesn’t feel that great and doesn’t make the job market improve that rapidly,” Goolsbee said.

Chicago voters hold a dim view of Rahm Emanuel’s stewardship of public education after a tumultuous year that featured a teachers strike and the mayor’s push to close many neighborhood elementary schools, a new Tribune/WGN-TV poll shows.

Disenchantment with Emanuel education policy is particularly acute among minority voters, and that’s helping drive up negative views of the mayor’s overall job performance as he reaches the middle of his first term this week.

Nearly 6 of 10 surveyed said they disapproved of Emanuel’s attempt to downsize elementary schools, while just a third approved. Those numbers closely mirror negative feelings about Emanuel’s approach to public education, which he has labeled a top priority.

The general dissatisfaction was even greater among those with children in public schools — three-fourths disapproved. But even a majority of voters without so personal a stake expressed reservations about the way the mayor has dealt with Chicago Public Schools.

Since taking office two years ago, Emanuel has sought to portray the Chicago Teachers Union as an impediment to reform and progress in a struggling school system as he launched a series of skirmishes over a longer school day, teacher evaluations, pay and the closings that are scheduled for final approval in less than two weeks.

The bad blood helped fuel a seven-day walkout last fall, and in the aftermath, the mayor’s first choice to run the school district, Jean-Claude Brizard, was ousted. After all the drama, the poll showed the mayor has failed to erode voter confidence in the CTU.

Asked whom they sided with in the debate over public school improvement, 41 percent of those surveyed said the teachers union and just 19 percent said Emanuel. Another 36 percent said neither.

Those results are little changed from a Tribune poll a year ago, months before the strike. Chicago remains a union town, and teachers tend to be viewed sympathetically given the job they do.

The recent survey showed 54 percent of voters who said they had children in the public schools sided with the teachers union and only 9 percent with Emanuel. The gap was closer among voters who weren’t parents of public school children, but even then 38 percent said they favored the union’s point of view compared with 22 percent for Emanuel, with 37 percent saying neither.

The telephone survey of 800 Chicago voters with an error margin of 3.5 percentage points was completed May 6, just hours before news broke that retired judges, hired by schools officials to preside over public hearings on 53 proposed elementary school closings, had objected to 13 and expressed qualms about others.

The jurists issued written reports that Emanuel’s school board is not legally bound to heed when it takes a final vote May 22 on closing more than 10 percent of elementary schools. The reports painted school officials in some cases as being insensitive to the academic and safety needs of young children living in gang-plagued neighborhoods.

School officials strongly disagreed with such assessments, arguing that the critiques of judges in some cases exceeded the scope of what they were commissioned to do: weigh in on whether closing plans followed legal dictates.

For his part, Emanuel avoided a direct answer when asked last week whether the critiques might lead his school board to back away from some school closings he wants. At the same time, the mayor stressed that the schoolchildren of Chicago deserve the benefits of dramatic change in the system.

“We have to make the changes that are necessary so our children don’t continue to go to schools that are not achieving the goals that they need to achieve academically, and (not) locking them into schools that can’t do that,” Emanuel said.

For a big city mayor, few responsibilities can be more sensitive than those where youngsters are involved.

Emanuel has argued forcefully that the city’s more than 400,000 public school children are being shortchanged by bad finances he inherited, underenrolled schools that siphon funds that could be more wisely and efficiently spent, and lack of accountability for teachers.

The poll, however, indicates that most voters don’t see it that way, helping explain why the mayor’s school closing push has been met with a wave of skepticism, anguish and resistance from parents, students and teachers alike.

There is potential political peril in that for Emanuel, who presides over a city where the poll indicates opinions on him are increasingly shaded in hues of black, white and brown.

Emanuel ran for mayor in 2011 fresh off a stint as chief of staff to President Barack Obama, and that association with the nation’s first African-American leader may have helped Emanuel gain broad support among black voters.

But the overall poll results readily suggest that the honeymoon may be over for Emanuel with minority voters.

A year ago, a plurality of 44 percent of black voters said they generally approved of the job Emanuel was doing as mayor while one-third disapproved. On Thursday, the Tribune reported that nearly half of black voters disapprove of Emanuel as mayor. While schools aren’t the only reason for that souring, they appear to be a big part of it.

The current survey found that 74 percent of black voters disapproved of Emanuel’s overall handling of schools, and 77 percent disliked his closing plans. For Latinos, the comparable disapproval numbers were 64 percent and 69 percent.

Whites were split over Emanuel’s general performance on schools, with 46 percent approving and 44 percent disapproving. On the other hand, that group backed the closings at 51 percent to 40 percent who opposed.

The demographic realities of the city’s school system may help explain big differences in racial viewpoints on Emanuel.

A far larger share of white families send their children to private or parochial schools than do minorities, indicating that whites may feel they are less personally affected by public school developments than others. According to the U.S. census, non-Hispanic whites make up nearly one-third of the city’s population, yet school district numbers show white enrollment at less than 10 percent.

The poll revealed a clear correlation between voters who disagreed with Emanuel on schools and those who didn’t think much of him as mayor. Almost nine in 10 voters who said they didn’t like the way he handles schools also disapproved of his overall job performance.

What’s more, those who disliked Emanuel’s job performance also sided overwhelmingly with teachers in the debate over improving schools: 62 percent of them backed the CTU; just 5 percent backed Emanuel.

Parents of students enrolled in public schools also have problems with the mayor, the poll found. Only 40 percent of CPS parents approved of Emanuel’s job performance, while 53 percent disapproved. By a 2-1 ratio, they don’t think he’s in touch with people like them.

Breaking poll results down by geography, predominantly white wards along the lakefront were the only part of the city where Emanuel’s handling of schools was applauded, with 49 percent of voters in those wards approving and 39 percent disapproving. Similarly, lakefront wards were the only part of the city where voters backed the mayor over the CTU, 38 percent to 20 percent.

There also is a wealth gap in views on the mayor’s school policies, the poll found. Half of voters reporting annual income over $100,000 approved of the mayor’s handling of schools, while 37 percent sided with him over the teachers union and 56 percent said they backed his school consolidation moves.

Those making less than $100,000 were decidedly more downcast on the mayor over schools. Nearly 7 in 10 of those making less than $50,000 said they disapproved, a figure that was 62 percent for those making between $50,000 and $100,000.

Copyright © 2013 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC

Chicago voters are split on how Mayor Rahm Emanuel has handled the crime problem that was a high-profile focus of his second year in office, but they like the job Garry McCarthy is doing as the city’s top cop, a Tribune/WGN-TV poll found.

The mayor’s approval rating on crime is holding steady from a year ago at 45 percent. But the number of voters who disapprove is rising — from 34 percent last May to 47 percent in the current survey. McCarthy, meanwhile, was viewed as doing well by nearly 6 in 10 voters.

The increase in Emanuel’s negatives on crime came during a 2012 that saw more than 500 homicides recorded in Chicago for the first time in four years, as the city’s gun violence problem attracted national attention. Since then, Emanuel and McCarthy have gone back to some of the strategies used in years past when violent crime was trending down. In the first four months of this year, homicides are down sharply from the large number in the same period the year before. They are also down compared with the average during those months from 2006 to 2011.

Still, the findings in the current survey show the toll last year’s gun violence took on the mayor as he reaches the middle of his term next week. Driving the increase in disapproval were minority voters. A majority — 52 percent — of African-American and Latino voters said they were dissatisfied with Emanuel’s efforts to curb crime.

In addition, the percentage of black voters dissatisfied with Emanuel on crime is up 10 percentage points from a similar Tribune survey a year ago. Among Latino voters, the disapproval of Emanuel’s anti-crime strategy has grown by nearly 20 percentage points in a year.

The increase in the percentage of voters dissatisfied with Emanuel on crime, especially among minority groups, and the stability of those with favorable opinions holds true for the mayor’s overall job performance as well, according to the poll.

The latest poll also found that about 4 in 10 black voters were satisfied with Emanuel’s efforts on crime, while 52 percent of white voters said they approved of his efforts.

Last year, Emanuel sought to downplay the attention given to the city’s homicide rate, an embarrassment in the hometown of President Barack Obama, then seeking re-election. This year the mayor has not shied away from promoting the downturn in homicides.

“I know what my responsibilities are, and my responsibility is to make sure we are driving down the rate of shootings and homicides and overall crime. That’s happening and that’s day in and day out,” Emanuel said in a recent City Hall interview with the Tribune.

Emanuel said a strategy of impact zones — adding police to areas with the worst violence — is being buttressed.

That tactic represents a change for Emanuel and McCarthy. When the mayor took office, he inherited a police force that had been depleted by at least 1,000 officers in the latter years of Richard M. Daley’s administration. McCarthy and Emanuel dealt with the reduction in force, in part, by disbanding so-called saturation teams once used to flood crime hot spots.

The move drew criticism last year as the homicide rate soared. In January, amid a continuing surge in gun violence, Emanuel called a news conference with McCarthy and announced that the department would put 200 officers back into saturation teams.

Much of the criticism over the 2011 disbanding of saturation teams came from aldermen in African-American wards on the South Side. McCarthy, however, has displayed a sensitivity to racial and social issues since early in his tenure as superintendent. Part of his rationale for disbanding larger saturation teams, he has said, stemmed from their use of stop-and-frisk methods that he viewed as detrimental to building trust between police and residents, especially in minority neighborhoods.

The poll found McCarthy, Emanuel’s hand-picked police superintendent, with a higher job approval rating than the mayor. A total of 59 percent of those surveyed approved of McCarthy’s job performance, compared with 50 percent who approved of the job Emanuel has done as mayor.

Only 28 percent of city voters polled said they disapprove of the job McCarthy has done in leading the police force. While a majority of African-American voters expressed dissatisfaction with Emanuel on crime, 53 percent approved of McCarthy’s handling of the job compared with 36 percent who disapproved.

Aside from crime and safety issues in city neighborhoods, McCarthy’s tenure in Chicago has been partly defined by his performance during the May 2012 NATO summit.

When McCarthy arrived, he was viewed within the department as an outsider from New York. He got a boost among rank-and-file officers who saw him putting in the same hours on the street as they were during NATO. When clashes between protesters and police turned violent, McCarthy was standing at the back of the line in his white shirt and blue cap running the show and helped remove an officer with a minor stab wound.

Among white voters surveyed, 65 percent backed the job McCarthy was doing, as did 61 percent of Latino voters. Disapproval among white respondents was 19 percent, and 34 percent among Hispanic voters. The poll of 800 Chicago voters has an error margin of 3.5 percentage points. Interviewers conducted the phone survey from April 30 to Monday.

While McCarthy is popular in Chicago, he’s viewed as a dyed-in-the-wool law enforcement type not looking to translate it into a run for political office.

The survey also found that nearly 7 in 10 respondents feel as safe in their neighborhoods as they did before Emanuel became mayor, while 20 percent feel less safe since he took office in May 2011. Eleven percent said they felt their neighborhood was safer. A year ago, 65 percent of city voters said they considered their neighborhood safe from crime, while 31 percent said they felt their neighborhood was unsafe.

In the current poll, three-quarters of white voters and 62 percent of black voters said there was no change in the safety of their neighborhood, while 15 percent of whites and 26 percent of blacks said they felt less safe, the poll found.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel faces growing voter disenchantment, particularly among African-Americans, even as the overall number approving of his job performance holds steady at the halfway point of his first term, a new Tribune/WGN-TV poll shows.

The survey showed 50 percent approve of the job Emanuel is doing, roughly the same as a year ago. But those disapproving of his job performance stand at 40 percent — up from 29 percent a year before.

Compared with last year, Emanuel’s negatives are up significantly among African-Americans. Now, more black voters disapprove than approve of his handling of the mayor’s office. That’s turned around from a year ago. Though Emanuel’s approval rating among white voters is similar to last May, the number of those who disapprove also is growing.

And although Emanuel billed himself as an agent for change in taking over City Hall after 22 years of Richard M. Daley, the poll found more than half of voters say they think Chicago is the same as it was under his predecessor.

Still, the poll found a majority of voters like Emanuel and find him honest.

Those are the midterm ratings of Emanuel in a poll of 800 Chicago voters that has an error margin of 3.5 percentage points. Interviewers conducted the phone survey from April 30 to Monday.

A politician seeking to keep his office, as Emanuel has vowed to do, wants a job approval rating above 50 percent. Emanuel is approaching that benchmark with less than two years to go before he stands for re-election.

Although no challenger has emerged yet, the poll points to serious political concerns for the mayor.

More African-American voters disapprove of Emanuel’s job performance than approve, 48 percent to 40 percent. That’s a sharp turnaround from a year ago, when 44 percent of black voters approved of Emanuel’s job as mayor while only one-third disapproved.

Emanuel convincingly won election without a runoff in 2011 on the strength of carrying every majority-black ward in Chicago. He earned credibility as President Barack Obama’s first White House chief of staff.

Several potential factors may be driving the change in attitude among African-American voters.

The mayor found his last 12 months dominated by issues of increased gun violence. He has maintained a battle with unionized public school teachers over proposed school closings in a system serving a majority of minority students. And the issue of job growth and economic development has been a problem as unemployment remains above 10 percent.

Emanuel also is undertaking a massive renovation of the CTA’s Red Line from Cermak Road south to 95th Street — a five-month closing primarily affecting black commuters. That move was largely embraced by local African-American aldermen.

Asked in a recent Tribune interview whether he still had the backing of black voters who helped elect him, the mayor replied, “Nothing’s ever static in life. If you think it is, well, nothing’s static.”

Emanuel, whose campaign finance records show that he regularly conducts political polling, said he has reached out to the black community far beyond his predecessor as the city’s chief executive. He said his work has included improving access for minority workers and contractors on public works projects, combating food deserts, building neighborhood parks and revitalizing Malcolm X College.

“They know I believe in taking on the very forces that have not allowed the city to progress in their own community,” Emanuel said of African-American voters. “And I’m going to continue to work at it every day.”

Among white voters, Emanuel’s job approval standing is better, with nearly 6 in 10 giving him good marks as mayor. That figure is similar to what the mayor scored a year ago. But the percentage of white voters disapproving also increased: from 21 percent a year ago to 32 percent.

Latino voters approved of Emanuel at a 54 percent clip, while 39 percent disapproved. A year ago, those percentages among Latino voters were 49-30, so the mayor’s negatives continued to rise there as well.

Although a message of change has remained Emanuel’s effusive mantra well into his second year in office, 53 percent of voters said they think Chicago is about the same as it was under Daley. A total of 24 percent of voters said they believed the city was better off under Emanuel while 21 percent said they thought Chicago was worse off.

A similar survey a year ago found that more than 6 in 10 voters thought it was too early in Emanuel’s tenure to tell whether he was good for the city.

With voter attitudes hardening as Emanuel settles in at the helm of City Hall, the survey shows a majority no longer believing his campaign vow to fix a government that “can no longer be an insiders’ game, serving primarily the lobbyists and well-connected.”

The poll found 52 percent said they believed Emanuel had not kept his campaign pledge, while 35 percent said he had. A similar poll a year into office found voters equally split at 39 percent.

Aside from his job approval rating, voters were asked their general impression of Emanuel. The mayor’s hard-charging and sometimes combative style is backed by a majority of Chicago voters, according to the poll. Fully 53 percent had a favorable view of the mayor while 40 percent had an unfavorable view. Again, more African-American voters rated Emanuel unfavorably than favorably, 48 percent to 43 percent.

If there is a high point for Emanuel, given Chicago’s political history, it is the poll’s finding that 54 percent of city voters believe the mayor is “honest or trustworthy” compared with 34 percent who disagree.

Although about two-thirds of white voters and 57 percent of Hispanic voters attest to Emanuel’s honesty, the margin is closer among black voters. Fewer than half — 44 percent — consider the mayor honest and trustworthy while 39 percent said the opposite.

Geographically, Emanuel’s greatest job support comes from the wealthy liberal bastion of the lakefront wards. He has the largest disapproval from heavily African-American wards.

Almost half of lakefront voters, 46 percent, believe Emanuel has made the city better off, while 12 percent thought the city was worse off and 39 percent said it was the same.

By comparison, a quarter of residents in black wards said they think the city is worse off, while 17 percent said better off. Additionally, 54 percent of those surveyed in black wards think the mayor has not kept his pledge to keep government from being an insiders’ game. Among lakefront voters, 49 percent think he has kept his vow.