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Chicagoans in a sour mood as elections for mayor, governor near

Crain's Chicago Business

Thursday, January 13, 2022  |  Column  |  Greg Hinz

Driven by fear of crime, just 9% say in the latest Chicago Index survey that the city is headed in the right direction.Buffeted by COVID, a so-so economy, and especially by rising violent-crime rates, Chicagoans increasingly are in a foul mood. That's what's reflected in the latest Chicago Index survey, with perceptions about the desirability of the city and the performance of its public officials showing signs of plunging.

Just 9% percent of those participating in the latest round of the survey, conducted for Crain’s and The Daily Line, say the city is headed in the right direction, a drop of 12 percentage points from the third quarter. A sobering 91% say the city is on the wrong track.

Sixty-one percent say their neighborhood remains a good or excellent place to live, but the citywide figure is only 40%, and just over a quarter, 28%, say Chicago is a good place to raise children. All those figures are markedly down from earlier editions of the survey.

Though several variables are driving such perceptions, the big factor appears to be crime.

A total of 34% say they feel safe in their neighborhood, 76% say the city is somewhat or very unsafe, and 81% say the situation is worse compared to before COVID-19 hit.

Chicagoans are particularly down on public transportation. Asked to rate public safety on transit, 4% feel very safe, 13% somewhat safe, 35% somewhat unsafe, and 36% very unsafe. Just over 1 in 10 have a preference either way.

Overall, 8 in 10 of those participating in the survey said the city is less safe than it was—half said it's much less safe.

It’s not entirely clear how much of drop is due to actual shifts in public perception, and how much may have been caused by the open nature of the survey attracting people who are particularly upset.

Polco, the firm that prepares and conducts the survey, said it may be a mix of both but that results indicate the drop in public feelings about the city is real.

This round of the Chicago Index was conducted from Nov. 29 to Dec. 12, with 831 participants recruited by a variety of online and other methods, and an accuracy level of plus or minus 4%.

The bulk of participants, 76%, identified themselves as white only (not Latino), but results were weighted to approximate the ethnic, racial, age and sexual distribution of the Chicago area. Almost all of those participating, roughly 700 of the 831, are city residents, with the remainder living in suburban Cook County. Results for questions about Chicago specifically reflect only the views of Chicago residents.

The souring mood has impacted on the popularity of public officials as the city and state head into a series of elections in which the entire General Assembly and City Council, as well as the posts of mayor and governor, will soon be up for a vote.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s job rating is down to just 15% positive and 86% negative. Though Lightfoot never has scored well in Chicago Index surveys, the latest figure is down from the 23% she had in the second quarter.

Somewhat more surprising was a drop for Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, from 50% positive last summer to 31% now.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker still has a positive rating of 53%, but that’s a significant drop from 67% last quarter.

Interestingly, the rating for the Chicago Police Department has risen from 34% positive to 43%. That may be because public protests about alleged police misconduct and abuse have trailed off, replaced by extensive media reporting of violent crime.

The complete results are available here.