Chicagoans on Rahm Emanuel’s First Year as Mayor: Waiting and Seeing

The mayor scores his highest approval ratings from whites (61 percent) and the wealthy (62 percent), which is likely driven in part by perceptions of neighborhood crime. But “no opinion” still scores pretty high after the mayor’s first year.

Rahm Emanuel Barack Obama

 

The city’s weighed in, via a Tribune poll, on Mayor Emanuel’s first year. The results: hesitating approval, though with significant demographic differences.

Rahm Emanuel approval

It’s a lot better than Mayor Daley was doing in polls running up to his decision not to run for reelection, not that sub-50 percent approval ratings are an impediment to being re-elected:

[T]he poll found only 37 percent of city voters approve of the job Daley is doing as mayor, compared with 47 percent who disapprove. Moreover, a record-low 31 percent said they want to see Daley re-elected, compared with 53 percent who don’t want him to win another term.

[snip]

The poll shows Daley — always a formidable political force — to be vastly weakened entering a potential re-election campaign. In Tribune polling conducted since 1994, voter support for the mayor’s re-election has tumbled dramatically, since peaking at 68 percent in 1999. A year prior to the 2007 election, a poll showed only 41 percent of voters backed Daley’s re-election — what had been the record low until the current survey.

And we all know what happened after that. Emanuel’s lowest approval ratings come from Hispanics, blacks, the lower-middle class and poor, and women, yet the disapproval ratings for all those demographics are not especially high. Even the highest disapproval rating for Emanuel, 34 percent among those making $50-$100k a year, is still well off Daley’s late numbers. That Emanuel’s biggest approval should come in the $100k+ group should come as no surprise:

Observers say a number of mayoral moves already have begun to engender positive buzz about downtown as a location for white-collar jobs, among them his continuous shout-outs to companies that create jobs; the added corporate muscle at World Business Chicago, the city’s business scout; the elimination of the so-called head tax on large employers; and the dramatic reduction in the number of required business licenses. Wooing manufacturers to the city remains a tougher sell.

“Frankly, I love his impatience,” said Kevin Brown, president and chief executive officer of Chicago-born restaurant powerhouse Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises Inc. “I’m not a very patient person, so I love it.”

But the “no opinion” totals are quite large, about a fifth across the board, suggesting that Chicagoans are sensibly waiting to see what happens next. Emanuel has been busy passing legislation, but much implementation is yet to come.

Why is Emanuel’s approval lower, and disapproval higher, among blacks than other demographics? (And higher among whites, for that matter?) The poll suggests that crime plays a major factor, along with skepticism about “nickle and diming” taxpayers and preventing insider government:

rahm emanuel approval crime

I have to admit I’m a bit surprised that two-thirds of voters feel their neighborhoods are safe; even though the breakdowns reflect long-acknowledged realities, it’s a truism in sociology and criminology that public perception is generally worse than the reality.

 

Photograph: Chicago Tribune

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