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CHICAGO — With crime remaining the dominant issue facing Chicago today, residents are growing unhappy with Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s performance in office, according to a new WGN-TV/Emerson College poll. 

About 45.9% of those polled disapprove of the job Lightfoot is doing as mayor, 42.5% approve of her performance and another 10.8% are unsure or have no opinion. 

These numbers represent a shift from the start of the summer. On June 1, Lightfoot’s approval rating among Chicago voters was 48%.

Also under water with Chicago residents, but by a much wider margin, is Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx. Just 34.7% of Chicagoans polled approve of the job the county’s top prosecutor is doing overall, 47.7% disapprove and 15.9% are unsure or have no opinion. 

Shootings across the city continued rise throughout the summer, and Chicago residents are taking notice. Sixty-two percent respondents say there is more crime now in Chicago than there was a year ago, while 24% feel that crime has stayed the same. Just 14% of residents think there is less crime since last year. 

The surge in gun violence continues to dominate headlines. This past weekend 56 people were shot, seven of them fatally. The youngest victim was a 7-year-old girl killed in a shooting Sunday that also wounded her 6-year-old sister.

By an overwhelming number, Chicagoans still think crime is the number one issue facing the city. Of those asked, 44.2% said their top concern was crime — that’s more than three times for any other issue. The city’s handling of the deadly COVID-19 virus came in second at 12%, followed by education/schools at 7.8%, health care at 7.3% and police reform at 7.2%.

Compared to the WGN-TV/Emerson poll in June, crime has risen six points as a top issue. 

Mayor Lightfoot and CPD leaders insist that violent crime is trending downward, but Chicago residents don’t see improvement. Respondents were asked what aspect of crime they were most concerned about and 87.1% said violent crime, 7.9% picked property crime and 5% said other.

And as leaders look to stop a rise in carjackings across the city, 47% say they are greatly concerned about the issue, while 31% say they are concerned a fair amount. 

Still, Chicagoans say they generally feel safer in their own neighborhood than the city overall. About 75% said they feel very or somewhat safe within their own neighborhood, but that number drops to 59% who say they feel very or somewhat safe in the city.

Women feel less safe than men in the city, with 47% reporting feeling at least somewhat unsafe, compared to only 35% of men.

In the wake of the shooting death of Chicago Police Officer Ella French, support for the police force is growing overall. One week after French was shot to death during a traffic stop on the South Side, 70% of residents who were polled say they have at least a somewhat positive opinion of CPD. That’s an uptick of 10 points since June 1. 

As of Aug. 15, 23% have a somewhat or very negative opinion of the Chicago Police Department and just 7% are unsure. 

But residents are split on who should take responsibility for solving Chicago’s violence problem, as city leaders continue to point fingers at one another. The most respondents said CPD is responsible (36.5%), with the mayor following at 26% and the Cook County State’s Attorney close behind at 22%. 

Just 7.8% said Chicago’s City Council are responsible for solving violence, and 7.7% said federal agents should step up — even as Lightfoot and Chicago police Supt. David Brown plead for help from Washington.

In the debate over pre-trial release for violent offenders, city residents side with the mayor and Brown, who argue the court system is releasing too many violent criminals onto city streets. Asked if they believe some individuals who are charged with gun crimes should be released on electronic monitoring while awaiting trial, an overwhelming majority seven in ten (70.4%) said no.

About 65.2% of respondents said they would consider moving if Chicago’s gun violence continues. That sentiment was consistent amongst those polled from the North, South and West sides of the city. 

State’s Attorney Kim Foxx reacted to the poll in a statement.

“Right now, we need an ‘all hands on deck’ approach to tackle the rise in crime with smart, community-focused solutions,” she said. “And we need to stop oversimplifying the criminal justice system and critically examine all the factors influencing violence in our communities. This means not relying on data from a cherry-picked poll that only examines two actors in a broad system and who happen to be Black women.”

Chicago residents who were polled are divided over media coverage of crime — 36.6% say the news media over emphasizes crime, 31.5% say the media under emphasizes the issue and 31.9% say the press places the right amount of emphasis on the issue.

As cases of COVID-19 continue to climb, nearly half of all Chicagoans (48.6%) say they are very concerned about the delta variant of the virus, 30.9% percent are somewhat concerned, and just 20.4% are not too concerned or not at all concerned.

Support for an indoor mask mandate is strong. Seven in 10 Chicagoans (70.3%) say they back a potential return to the mandate, while 20.5% oppose it.


The WGN-TV/Emerson College Chicago poll was conducted August 13-15, 2021. The sample consisted of Chicago residents, 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 general 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.