New poll shows opportunity to resurrect rainbow coalition in Chicago race for mayor

Of those polled, 71% of Black voters and 78% of Latino voters believe Chicago would be better off if those groups worked together on pressing issues, while 75% of Black and Latino voters said they had a “great deal or a fair amount in common.”

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Harold Washington was elected and reelected as Chicago’s first African American mayor on the strength of a rainbow coalition of Blacks, Hispanics and working-class whites.

In the 36 years since Washington’s death, historic tensions between Blacks and Hispanics over political empowerment, jobs and contracts have made that coalition difficult to resurrect.

Now, a new nonpartisan poll in the crowded race for mayor of Chicago shows an opportunity for its return.

The poll of 643 registered Chicago voters was conducted Feb. 5-10 by BSP research for Northwestern University’s Center for the Study of Diversity and Democracy and a coalition of Black and Hispanic nonprofits. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.

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Of those polled, 71% of Black voters and 78% of Latino voters said they believe Chicago would be better off if those two groups worked together on pressing issues, while 75% of Black and Latino voters said they had a “great deal or a fair amount in common.”

Underscoring the point and the opportunity for another rainbow coalition was that ethnicity was not a strong indicator of candidate preference.

In fact, of those surveyed, 77% of African Americans, 75% of whites and 60% of Latino voters said they were “not committed” to backing the leading candidate of their ethnicity.

The implication is, there are “a lot of votes out there to get” for candidates willing and able to capitalize on the opportunity, said Jaime Dominguez, an associate professor of political science at Northwestern.

“It’s clear that Latino and Black voters are not a monolith. In fact, I would argue that this poll shows that they are more of a heterogenous mosaic whose policy preferences and policy choices are wide-ranging and can be on all fronts of the spectrum,” Dominguez said.

“This is a great opportunity also for coalition politics to emerge in a unique way, where you can see multiracial, multiethnic alliances across the board on a variety of different fronts,” he said.

Matt Barreto of BSP Research was particularly intrigued by the overwhelming majorities of Black and Hispanic voters who said they believed the two groups would be better off joining forces than going it alone.

“This was one of the places where, I have seen as a pollster, some of the highest rates of desire for coalition. That was a very interesting and important finding,” Barreto said.

When asked whether they were willing to pay for increased services to reduce violent crime, improve public schools and confront the migrant crisis, the “overwhelming majority” of voters favored higher taxes.

Taxing high-end home sales got “80% support among voters across every racial and ethnic group,” Barrera said.

That’s something Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot promised to do to provide a dedicated revenue stream to confront homelessness and build affordable housing, but it’s a promise she has not kept.

And 59% of those surveyed said they would “prefer to pay more in taxes in order to have more government services,” compared to 41% who said they wanted “less taxes and decreased services.”

Black and Latino respondents were “slightly more likely to prefer a government that provided more services,” the poll showed.

“There is a desire among voters in the city to see — I hesitate to use the word ‘big’ because that’s not what voters are looking for — but active and effective city government, even if it means that a little bit more taxes might need to come. That it would benefit the city overall,” Barrera said.

The poll also showed a race that remains a statistical tie at the top.

Former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas was at 19%, followed by U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia with 17%. Lightfoot, at 14%, and millionaire businessman Willie Wilson, at 12%, remain within striking distance.

After those four were Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson (9%), community activist Ja’Mal Green (6%), Ald. Sophia King (5%); state Rep. Kam Buckner (4%) and Ald. Roderick Sawyer (3%).

Also, 52% of voters surveyed said they had been contacted by one or more of the mayoral campaigns. But Patrice James, executive director of the Illinois Black Advocacy Initiative, found it “a little bit surprising” and disappointing that 54% of Black voters had not been contacted by any mayoral campaigns.

“History has shown us that, oftentimes, the Black vote is taken for granted. Just because there is a field of [seven] Black candidates and Chicago has a Black mayor, these campaigns should not take the Black vote for granted,” James said.

“We know what the Black vote means. We know that we are an important and powerful voting bloc,” she added. “This poll is showing a bit that campaigns have some work to do … to engage Black voters.”

As for whether they would vote at all, 69% Hispanic voters were “100 percent certain” they would cast ballots, compared to 78% of Black voters surveyed, and 83% of white voters.

That’s why the Hispanic Federation is planning a get-out-the-vote campaign focused on the Southwest and Northwest sides.

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