Mayor Rahm Emanuel is more unpopular among likely Chicago voters than morning traffic that causes commuter headaches on the Eisenhower Expressway, according to a bizarre new poll conducted for his best-known challenger.
The poll, with questions tailor-made to grab headlines, was paid for by Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) and conducted Sept. 26-29 by Washington D.C.-based Hamilton Campaigns.
Emanuel’s heavy negatives have been well-documented in recent polls by the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune.
But, Fioretti’s pollster was apparently looking to put a new twist on the issue by testing the mayor’s unfavorable ratings against some high-profile enemies, including the Bears’ archrival Green Bay Packers.
Of the 500 likely Chicago voters surveyed, 23 percent had a “somewhat unfavorable” opinion of Emanuel and 28 percent had a “very unfavorable” view of the mayor.
That’s an overall negative rating of 51 percent, compared to 49 percent overall for morning traffic on the Eisenhower. Conservative-leaning Fox News Channel had a comparable rating in Democratic-dominated Chicago while the Packers stood at 59 percent.
“We have a real path to victory,” Fioretti said Tuesday.
Asked why he believes so many Chicago voters don’t like Emanuel, Fioretti said, “He’s following a corporate agenda that the people of this city don’t want — from school closures to issues of crime, the No. 1 issue. The failure to put more police officers on the street, have a robust community policing system, open mental health clinics and get jobs for people. Everything is a press release-per-day. We need leadership that listens to and fights for the people of this city.”
Fioretti’s political strategist Michael Kolenc was quoted as rubbing salt in the unlikability wound in a press release issued by the alderman’s campaign.
“You know the mayor’s campaign is in trouble when more people dislike the candidate than morning traffic on the Eisenhower,” Kolenc was quoted as saying.
Emanuel’s campaign spokesman Steve Mayberry dismissed the results in an email to the Sun-Times.
“This is a silly poll from a candidate who apparently has nothing better to do or say,” Mayberry wrote.
Earlier this year, Emanuel blamed the economic squeeze on the middle class for his 35 percent showing in a Tribune poll that also showed him trailing Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis.
The Tribune’s findings mirrored the results of a Chicago Sun-Times that showed the mayor with 29 percent support overall and only eight percent from African-Americans and a more recent head-to-head poll that put Lewis in the lead.
“There’s tremendous economic stress in people’s lives, which is why I’ve pushed for the minimum wage. Which is why I’ve pushed for policies to make sure our small businesses have a fair chance and an equal chance with big companies,” the mayor said then.
“You have to have a set of policies in place — from pre-K to community colleges to playgrounds to parks to after-school activities — to give everybody a chance to not just look at the gains but know that they have a future in those gains, and acknowledge that, while we’re making progress, we’re not where we need to be. We’re not repeating the mistakes that got us into the problems. But, we’re not at the pace or place we need to be where everybody’s feeling an opportunity that they have a chance at a middle-class job.”
In mid-May, Emanuel responded to his dismal showing in the Sun-Times poll by acknowledging that he had alienated some Chicago voters with his polarizing style.
The mayor said then he would benefit politically from being “smoother around the edges,” adding, “Thank God the election is not today.”
But, he also said he ran for mayor on a promise to confront vexing problems “swept under the rug” and was not about to compromise his principles.
“The moment you decide that you’re gonna blow with the wind, folks are smart and they’ll smell it,” he said then.
Compared to that rare moment of candor and self-reflection, Emanuel’s response to the Tribune poll sounded canned and rehearsed.
He said he was more concerned about the number of Chicago Public School students who graduate from high school and go on to college, the number of jobs being added by technology companies and about whether Chicago has “universal full-day kindergarten” and universal pre-school for every child living in poverty.
“When the campaign season comes and there’s a campaign time, I’ll then focus on the polling and the politics associated with that,” the mayor said then.
“I know we have more challenges, and I’m not gonna put my personal politics ahead of the future of the city of Chicago and ahead of the future of the children of the city of Chicago.”
Pressed to explain what it is about his personal style that he believes has rubbed Chicago voters the wrong way, Emanuel said, “Let me say this, if it’s a personal reflection, it will be personal with me — not with you.”