M. Harris & Co.

March 2018 Temkin/Harris Poll


The Big Picture: What We Found

Chicagoans are feeling better about their city, and only slightly better about their mayor. "The mayor's numbers are still terrible but a little better than before," our pollster, Jill Normington, told me and Max. But there were some bright spots: Strong public support for a bullet train to O'Hare and tax breaks to lure Amazon's second headquarters. Chicagoans, especially African Americans, also have a much more favorable view of the Chicago Police Department than they did six months ago. Below I explain why we launched the poll and who we polled, and then I unpack the answers we found most surprising.

Why Poll?

POLLING gives Max and I an unfiltered, objective view into the city in which we live and work. That's important because it's hard not to put the most weight on the loudest opinions. 

As with the September 2017 poll, we hired Jill Normington of Normington, Petts & Associates in Washington, D.C., whose clients include U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.). We also continued to poll registered versus likely voters. The result is that our sample of 500 Chicagoans contains more young people and more Hispanics than a pool of likely voters; but it looks a lot more like Chicago as a whole.

This may seem like a minor detail. But for any student of politics, the distinction is important. It means you shouldn't use this poll to predict who will win an election. It can be used, however, to describe how Chicagoans feel about a person, problem or institution. Scroll down to read what we found as well as the top-line (overall) results.

Respondents by Race

Respondents by Political Affiliation

Percent of Respondents by Education

Percent of Respondents by Age

Chicagoans Still Think the City is
on the Wrong Track, but Less So

57 percent of Chicago registered voters surveyed felt things in Chicago were ‘pretty seriously off track.’

This is better than in September when the number was 66 percent. More people also said Chicago was generally headed in the right direction versus six months ago: 28 percent now versus 20 percent then.

Is Chicago headed in the right direction
or on the wrong track?

The Chicago Police Department's Reputation Improves

The Chicago Police Department performed well in September’s poll, and it did even better this time.

55 percent of registered voters surveyed gave the police department a favorable rating, the highest among the President, governor, mayor and Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker. (That means they chose either "very favorable" or "somewhat favorable.") Only the Fire Department performed better.

This improvement is largely due to a boost in positive reviews from African Americans. Previously, 35 percent of African Americans held very favorable or somewhat favorable opinion of the police department. That percentage is now 50 percent.

Jill reported that the reputation of any police department is closely tied to TV coverage. No major scandals and an outpouring of admiration for late police Commander Paul Bauer, who was tragically murdered, have likely contributed to the department's improved reputation.  

African-Americans' opinions
of the Chicago Police Department

Rahm Struggles; Pritzker Deflects Attacks

The mayor’s numbers are still terrible but a little better than before.
— Pollster Jill Normington

Mayor Emanuel's favorable versus unfavorable rating is 36 percent to 42 percent up from 33 percent to 45 percent in September. When asked how one would vote if the mayoral election were held today, 27 percent of respondents said they would definitely or probably re-elect Emanuel versus 22 percent six months ago. However, the percentage of people who said they would definitely or probably replace him remained the same at 57 percent.

Meanwhile, Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker is faring well amid a barrage of negative attack ads from both primary challengers and incumbent Bruce Rauner. In fact, his favorability among African Americans and Chicagoans overall has increased since September. "He's not suffering," at least in Chicago, Jill told me and Max. But she reminded us that we have zero information on suburban voters, who will decide November's general election.

African-Americans' views of J.B. Pritzker


Yes: Express to O'Hare

You also should pay attention to the high intensity of the positive: Nearly half of Chicago registered voters are strongly in favor of a bullet train to O’Hare.
— Jill Normington

Chicagoans love the idea of a bullet train to O'Hare. That's the case no matter what part of the city they live in, whether they have a college degree or not, or whether they're conservative or liberal.

Yes: Tax Breaks for Amazon

Most surprisingly, registered voters in Chicago support the city extending Amazon tax breaks and incentives to lure its second headquarters to the city (59 percent favor; 25 percent oppose). "There is a little bit of an age pattern with people over 60 more likely to be opposed, but there is no partisan bent," Jill told me and Max. "Democrats and Republicans are within six points of each other, and it is rare for them to be that close on anything."

Yes: Legalize Pot

Legalizing recreational use of marijuana is very popular but, unlike with the bullet train, you find considerable opposition among Republicans, conservatives, and people over 60. The most support can be found among white, college-educated Chicagoans.

Yes: Elect the School Board

We knew this would be popular, but we weren't sure by how much. We also weren't sure if people would flinch when presented with an opposing argument: That an elected school board would inject politics in our schools. (It didn't matter.) Eighty-three percent of Chicagoans said they strongly or somewhat favored an elected versus mayor-appointed school board while only 10 percent said they were somewhat or strongly opposed. The rest, 8 percent, said they didn't know.

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