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CHICAGO — Halfway through her term and faced with challenges on multiple fronts, Chicago voters lean toward approval of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s performance in office, according to a new WGN-TV/Emerson College poll.

By a 48 to 39% margin, Chicago voters approve of the overall job Lightfoot is doing. Thirteen percent (13%) are unsure or have no opinion.

In contrast, those who were polled see other political leaders as more successful. 

With a battle for re-election looming next year, 64% of Chicago voters approve of the overall job Governor J.B. Pritzker is doing and 24% disapprove. This poll did not cover the Governor’s job approval statewide. 

President Joe Biden holds a 76% approval rating with 17% disapproval in Chicago, just six months into his time as commander-in-chief. 

Mayor Lightfoot’s approval is highest among younger Chicagoans aged 18-34 (64% approval). Meantime, disapproval of the Mayor is highest among those aged 35-49 – (59% disapprove).

Despite much publicized run-ins with members of City Council, the Fraternal Order of Police and the Chicago Teachers Union, Chicagoans generally trust Lightfoot.

A majority (61%) of voters say they view the mayor as very or somewhat honest. White respondents were more likely to categorize the mayor as somewhat or very dishonest at 39%, compared to 28% of African Americans and 26% of Hispanics.

Public Safety

Crime and gun violence remain the top issues to Chicagoans who were polled. 

Mayor Lightfoot campaigned as an expert on public safety, but at the halfway point of her term, she is still trying to get Chicago’s persistent violence problem under control.

Voters were asked to choose the number one issue facing Chicago today – crime, police reform, health care, COVID-19, housing, jobs, education/schools, homelessness, transportation or something else – and 38% of respondents picked crime. The next closest issues were police reform at 12%, health care at 11%, COVID-19 at 10%, housing at 9% and jobs at 9%.

Despite the Chicago Police Department recently reporting homicides were down this May compared to 2020, voters give Mayor Lightfoot a less than stellar grade when it comes to handling crime. 

Forty-two percent (42%) of respondents give Lightfoot a “poor” grade on handling crime overall compared to 35% who say she’s done an excellent or good job.

The numbers when asked specifically about gun violence — 68.8% of Chicagoans say Lightfoot has done a fair or poor job managing the issue while only 31.1% give her an excellent or good grade.

Still under a federal consent decree and a years-long quest to win back public trust following the Laquan McDonald shooting, the Chicago Police Department scores relatively favorable ratings.

Just over 60% of respondents say they view CPD very positively or somewhat positively, compared to 33.1 percent with a negative or very negative view.

Nearly 22% of respondents identifying as Hispanic or Latino said they had a negative or very negative view of the police department, while that number climbed to 41% amongst respondents identifying as Black or African American.  

COVID-19, Economy and Education

As the city prepares for a possible full re-opening later this month, voters give Mayor Lightfoot high marks on her handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Of the Chicagoans who were polled, 36% say she’s done an excellent job, and nearly 28% say she’s done a good job of navigating the year-and-a-half long crisis. 

Though Lightfoot has faced criticism for citywide shutdowns, just 16% of respondents classified her handling of the pandemic as poor, with just under 20% saying the job she’s done is fair. 

Voters are spilt about whether the mayor has advanced the economy, with 17.9% saying she’s done an excellent job, 32.8% good, 25.2% fair, 24.2% poor.

Education has been a front and center issue since the start of Mayor Lightfoot’s term, with a Chicago Teachers Union strike in 2019 and public sparring over in-person learning during the pandemic.

It appears the CTU is winning the public relations battle, with 55% of Chicagoans giving Lightfoot a fair or poor grade on education, compared to 44.1% who say the Mayor has done an excellent or good job on the matter, 

Race Relations

On race relations, the city’s first black woman mayor has disappointed many so far. Chicagoans were asked to rate the job Lightfoot has done to improve race relations – 35.7% of people say Lightfoot has done a poor job compared to just 16.3% who say she’s been excellent.

This poll was conducted after Lightfoot’s unusual one-time decision last month to only invite journalists of color to City Hall for one-on-one interviews, to mark the halfway point of her term.

Renaming Lake Shore Drive

A City Council ordinance to rename part of Lake Shore Drive in honor of Jean Baptiste Point du Sable has sparked controversy, and led to a shouting match inside City Council chambers last week. 

It appears voters mostly agree with Mayor Lightfoot, who is in favor of keeping Chicago’s iconic highway the way it is. 

Just 36.6% of respondents say they are in favor of renaming the drive specifically for Jean Baptise Point du Sable, largely recognized as the founder of Chicago and the city’s first non-Indigenous settler. In contrast, 41.5% say the street should remain Lake Shore Drive. 

The Mayor’s Office declined to comment on the results of this poll.

Full results are below.


The WGN-TV/Emerson College Chicago poll was conducted May 31-June 1, 2021. The sample consisted of Chicago registered voters, n=1000, with a Credibility Interval (CI) similar to a poll’s margin of error (MOE) of +/- 3 percentage points. The data sets were weighted by gender, age, education, region, and race based on the voting-age population in Chicago (Census Reporter). It is important to remember that subsets based on gender, age, ethnicity, and region carry with them higher margins of error, as the sample size is reduced. Data was collected using an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system of landlines, a cell phone sample of SMS-to-web and an online panel.