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Lightfoot poll shows major shift in Chicagoans’ attitudes about their city

Tuesday, Sep 24, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* This poll didn’t just “pop up.” I told subscribers about it yesterday

A memo popped up Monday reminding that Mayor Lori Lightfoot is popular, no matter what the critics (media) might say about the challenges she faces maneuvering in Springfield.

The memo, though, is dated Aug. 30. It details a poll conducted Aug. 19-22 that shows Lighfoot was seen favorably at the time by 61 percent of 800 likely 2020 voters. And 77 percent at the time considered her “an honest person.”

“The public’s impressions of Lightfoot are better now than they have been at any time since we began polling her standing back in May of 2018,” the poll memo states.

“The data speaks for itself,” adds Jason McGrath, VP at GBAO and chief pollster for Lightfoot. He also wrote the memo. “Nearly eight of 10 people think she’s doing a good job. She’s still seen as an antidote to the status quo and voters seem to have more optimism about the direction of the city,” he told Playbook.

The story quickly glosses over the main take-away. Yes, she’s very popular, and yes, pols of every stripe need to keep that in mind. But according to this poll, Lightfoot’s election produced a fundamental change in the way Chicagoans view their city

You just don’t see right track/wrong track numbers completely flip like that every day. Chicagoans appear to believe they’ve given their city a chance to succeed by overwhelmingly electing Lightfoot.

I do not know how long that attitude will last once she finally starts tackling tough issues with potentially unpopular solutions, but I do know I’d much rather start from her position than the jaded, cynical alternative.


  1. - Steve - Tuesday, Sep 24, 19 @ 9:57 am:

    It’s hard not be impressed. Mayor Lightfoot passed a major ethics reform bill that no one thought would have been possible a year ago.

  2. - RNUG - Tuesday, Sep 24, 19 @ 10:00 am:

    Still in the honeymoon period.

    Going to run out of political capital / good will pretty quickly if she doesn’t get her governing act together.

  3. - Frank talks - Tuesday, Sep 24, 19 @ 10:03 am:

    CTU should look at the poll and maybe take a pass on their strike vote. An incredibly popular mayor who just offered them a fat raise. Public may not want to hear about a strike for librarians and social workers.

  4. - Telly - Tuesday, Sep 24, 19 @ 10:07 am:

    Those numbers help illustrate why the mayor has been able to public beat up aldermen and get pretty much everything she wants out of the City Council so far. She’s clearly more popular than just about every alderman in each of their wards — and the aldermen know it.

    Obviously, (outside of the Chicago-based legislators,) that dynamic doesn’t exist in Springfield. So, she can expect much choppier waters.

  5. - la dictadora - Tuesday, Sep 24, 19 @ 10:20 am:

    Very smart of them to release this poll while insiders and bashing her. She couldn’t beat Rahm in an election because he got scared and dropped out but she’s finally getting the satisfaction of beating him as mayor…or that’s what the people think so far, per this poll.

  6. - Wow - Tuesday, Sep 24, 19 @ 10:21 am:

    When she raises property taxes, kids are home because of a teachers strike, and she starts taxing them for coming into the downtown area for a Saturday night.. those numbers will change

  7. - Roman - Tuesday, Sep 24, 19 @ 10:25 am:

    == CTU should look at the poll and maybe take a pass on their strike vote. ==

    All the polling I’ve seen over the years indicates CTU’s favorability rating is high among Chicagoans, too. It will be interesting to see who “wins” the public opinion contest if there is a strike.

  8. - Grandson of Man - Tuesday, Sep 24, 19 @ 10:29 am:

    The mayor stands up to Trump, which is what many Chicagoans want. She just ripped him for his tax cuts for billionaires, cuts to SNAP and taking billions for the border fence. She stands up to him on immigration as well.

    A top priority of the city is to focus on lower-income neighborhoods. Corporate investment in Chicago is tops in the nation, so that’s not a problem. We have great location, infrastructure, education, capital investment, amenities, etc. Lightfoot and others pay lip service to certain communities, but we all have to walk the walk. She says she wants the new legal marijuana industry to benefit those communities, as the new law intends.

  9. - Montrose - Tuesday, Sep 24, 19 @ 10:51 am:

    “CTU should look at the poll and maybe take a pass on their strike vote.”

    Basically, that’s telling CTU to give away the biggest point of leverage they have. CTU doesn’t need to be popular with the voting public. They won’t be up for election. Their power lies in the ability to bring CPS to a halt.

  10. - @misterjayem - Tuesday, Sep 24, 19 @ 10:55 am:

    “You just don’t see right track/wrong track numbers completely flip like that every day. Chicagoans appear to believe they’ve given their city a chance to succeed by overwhelmingly electing Lightfoot.”

    An additional reason for the flip might be that Chicagoans views are reverting to the mean after the final disasterous terms of Rahm Emanuel and Bruce Rauner, e.g.

    The most likely explanation is that Chicago’s needle has moved in a positive direction due to both 1) the presence of the new mayor and 2) the absence of Rahm and Rauner (but it would be nearly impossible to tease out how much of a role each of those factor plays in the flip.)

    But in any case, there’s no doubt that most Chicagoans are still rooting for their new mayor.

    – MrJM

  11. - Grandson of Man - Tuesday, Sep 24, 19 @ 11:22 am:

    Per this op-ed piece, the new mayor is striving for a different, more-cooperative tone with CTU, unlike Rauner-influenced Rahm. We’ll see.

  12. - lakeside - Tuesday, Sep 24, 19 @ 11:31 am:

    We really didn’t like Rahm. Lightfoot hasn’t had to make any super huge painful decisions yet that impact a wide swath of voters (everyone likes a hiring freeze).

    But yeah, I think MrJM is right - we’re rooting for her to turn it around. But I’d look at this same polling this time next year to see how we’re feeling once there’s been some pain.

  13. - Fav human - Tuesday, Sep 24, 19 @ 11:32 am:

    Well it’s certainly good, I wonder what a similar poll would have looked like just after Rahm first took office. I clearly remember him being viewed as just what the city needed.

  14. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Sep 24, 19 @ 11:43 am:

    I think - @misterjayem - has a real good grasp here, concur on a great deal, if not all of it.

    To the post,

    To ignore the “fresh air” feeling(s) after Rahm and Raunerism would be disingenuous to the election results of both Lightfoot and Pritzker, but specifically to Lightfoot, she came from the alleged “second tier” folks running and blew the doors off her opponents in both rounds.

    Chicagoans, by looking at this poll and trying to understand the election results, are still screaming for a fresh start and cheering the person they feel can bring it.

    Come October, and governing, Lightfoot and her Crew need to use these numbers and such as the molasses before gibing the voters the sulfur.

    What was seemingly an easy election, that’s doesn’t make governing at all any easier. The political trick is using goodwill and those chits in a way to move not only policy but move things no one wants.

    I’m not too impressed with Lightfoot or her crew, but I’m truly impressed with these numbers. Both can be equally true.

    See me in November. I’d like to see numbers then, and if schools are open then too.

  15. - Grandson of Man - Tuesday, Sep 24, 19 @ 11:44 am:

    The new governor probably also helped brighten up Chicago spirits. The last one waged a destructive and futile war, slashed social services and was anti-union. This one enacted many policies Chicagoans support.

  16. - PublicServant - Tuesday, Sep 24, 19 @ 12:47 pm:

    ===It details a poll conducted Aug. 19-22===

    Pretty much before word got out regarding her dissing of downtown and its attendant tourist dollars on the casino and pot fronts. I’d like another, more recent, poll.

    She’s going to propose a property tax increase that will be made all the worse by a failure to pursue the most efficient generation of tax dollars via those two revenue sources.

  17. - Cronish - Tuesday, Sep 24, 19 @ 1:17 pm:

    These numbers will almost assuredly drop as the City is forced to raise taxes and cut services in order to pay the pension debt.

    The CTU will have little support for a strike as those taxes skyrocket.

  18. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Sep 24, 19 @ 1:18 pm:

    ===The CTU will have little support for a strike as those taxes skyrocket===

    The CTU is never in favor of doable taxes. They only support taxes that are not doable, and they consequently avoid blame.

  19. - Cronish - Tuesday, Sep 24, 19 @ 1:20 pm:

    Great point Rich, CTU will be even less liked as they never propose any real solutions. They just demand more and more as the student population at CPS continues to fall.

  20. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Sep 24, 19 @ 1:22 pm:

    ===CTU will be even less liked as they never propose any real solutions===

    People, in general, don’t like real solutions. They prefer fantasy solutions.

  21. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Sep 24, 19 @ 1:24 pm:

    ===People, in general, don’t like real solutions. They prefer fantasy solutions.===

    This was something yesterday a friend faced;

    Folks not comprehending that doing the doable and their fantasy idea of a solution rarely match.

    Unless there’s a path that exists, it’s not doing the doable, it’s a lotta talk.

  22. - Cronish - Tuesday, Sep 24, 19 @ 1:26 pm:

    We’ll just have to wait and see if Lightfoot acts like a grown up and cuts CPS spending (close and consolidate more schools) and increase taxes to cover the pension hole. CTU won’t like it, but it’s what has to be done.

  23. - Cronish - Tuesday, Sep 24, 19 @ 1:27 pm:

    The only real tax options are casino downtown, pot dispensaries (including downtown) and increase RE taxes.

  24. - Levois J - Tuesday, Sep 24, 19 @ 1:36 pm:

    To be honest this pol surprises me. I had little idea she was popular aside from here overwhelming victory over Toni Preckwinkle. I’m glad we see a marked difference between perhaps the last few months of Emanuel’s time as Mayor up til Lightfoot took over.

    Will it last who knows. I feel as if right now especially with an outsider in office in Washington that we’re seeing this effect right now. Lightfoot may well have served in a public capacity in the city she’s not the same old, same old.

  25. - Indictrahm - Tuesday, Sep 24, 19 @ 2:09 pm:

    Lori is a con artist apologist to the permanent victim class. She only cares about the predators, people of color, the lgbtq army and her uneducated unsophisticated commie following. She has kept all Rahm’s people and was elected by a small majority of people. She has retained Ed at CPD, Kelly at the Park district whose only job is to make c3, Rahm’s donors happy, Carney at CDOT, failed Janice Jackson at the schools, sycophants Steve Berlin and Conlon at Eric’s to name a few. She was only elected because RINO Lausch started the burke investigation to take out Daley, Mendoza and Preckwinkle. That helped her greatly. She should resign as the city is unsafe because of her. When is she taking away Rahm’s police detail? She is a one term mayor if she even lasts that long.

  26. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Sep 24, 19 @ 2:36 pm:

    ===uneducated unsophisticated commie following===

    You’re so subtle and definitely not a reactionary goof.

  27. - Shytown - Tuesday, Sep 24, 19 @ 3:27 pm:

    Let’s see what polling they’ll be willing to release after she raises property taxes and tries to blame everyone else for doing so. She’s four months in. The honeymoon will end eventually.

  28. - Grandson of Man - Tuesday, Sep 24, 19 @ 3:31 pm:

    “Lori is a con artist apologist to the permanent victim class.”

    But she walked it back, last time she criticized raising taxes on the rich—the permanent victim class who cries about how terrible Illinois is while making tons of money here.

  29. - Edgewaterbob - Tuesday, Sep 24, 19 @ 4:50 pm:

    The CTU striking will give Mayor Lightfoot all the cover that is needed as far as property tax hikes are concerned, 2/3 of property taxes go to schools and the vast majority of that is for payroll.

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