Poll: ‘Striking’ lack of mayoral campaign outreach to Latino, Black voters

A Northwestern University poll on the Brandon Johnson and Paul Vallas contest for mayor finds Latino voters are still ‘up for grabs’ while race and a generational divide are also key factors in the election.

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Chicago mayoral candidates Brandon Johnson, left, and Paul Vallas debate one another Tuesday at WBBM-TV CBS Channel 2’s studio.

Chicago mayoral candidates Brandon Johnson, left, and Paul Vallas debate one another Tuesday at WBBM-TV CBS Channel 2’s studio.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

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A poll of likely voters in the Chicago mayoral runoff election Tuesday found that lack of outreach to Latinos and Blacks — along with race and a generation gap between voters — will be key factors in the contest.

The Center for the Study of Diversity and Democracy at Northwestern University and Black and Latino nonprofits surveyed 1,500 Chicago voters across the city and found that 55% of Black voters support Brandon Johnson, while 51% of white voters are backing Paul Vallas.

But Latino voters may be overlooked by candidates’ outreach efforts and have not overwhelmingly selected a candidate, said Jaime Dominguez, a researcher at Northwestern, during a news conference Tuesday.

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A “striking” number of Black and Latino voters say they have not been contacted by either campaign, Dominguez said.

“There is an opportunity for both campaigns over the next few days to really engage this electorate,” Dominguez said. “When they do that, I think it sends a message that they’re an important electorate that bring a lot to the table and that they should be part of the conversation.”

While the Latino vote is “up for grabs,” according to Dominguez, the numbers tilt slightly in favor of Vallas over Johnson.

Forty-six percent of Latino voters intend to vote for Vallas, while 35% say they will vote for Johnson. Nineteen percent — higher than the other groups — is undecided.

One-third of Latino voters want to vote for a candidate who understands their community, the poll showed.

“I think it really puts the onus on both campaigns to conduct outreach to the community,” said Sylvia Puente, president of the Latino Policy Forum. “But once elected — whoever our next mayor is — (it will) really require the candidates to reach out, forge alliances, create inclusion so that the Latino community can be truly represented and reflected in our city’s future.”

Poll findings show the race is extremely close as of the March 23 survey, with 44% of voters polled leaning toward each of the candidates.

Black, white and Latino voters overwhelmingly listed crime as their top voting concern. But their secondary issues differ. Latino and white voters list inflation and cost of living as their second priority, while Black voters say police accountability is second in importance.

Amid endorsements from Black leaders like Rep. Bobby Rush, alderpersons and Black pastors for Vallas, poll analysts say Black voters are still likely to stick with Johnson. These endorsements, Dominguez says, speak more to the “generational gap” in voters and are not likely to “substantially tip the scales.”

“(It’s) not to say that Paul Vallas can’t increase his share of the Black vote,” Dominguez said. “The endorsements he’s been getting, I think, also displays a generational gap that we also see with the Latino vote. You have the kind of old Black political guard — former Senate President Emil Jones (Jr.), retired Secretary of State Jesse White — throwing their support behind Paul Vallas. Perhaps that could help him ensure (those) older voters.”

While Vallas has insisted that race is not a relevant issue in the election, analysts for the Northwestern poll say the contest may come down to Latino voters.

“Remember, Chicago is one of the most hyper-segregated cities in the United States,” Dominguez said. “Historically, in terms of a governing perspective … Black and Brown communities have been negatively affected by some of the decisions that the previous administrations has made. … Granted there’s not like, extreme kinds of linear racial bloc voting ... but I think the key here is going to be the Latino vote.”

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