• Alex Nitkin
    MAR 03, 2022

    Chicagoans remain in a sour mood on city leadership as safety concerns soften, Chicago Index survey finds

    Mayor Lori Lightfoot speaks during a news conference on Wednesday. [Alex Nitkin/The Daily Line] 

    Chicagoans may be softening their pessimism on the city’s crime and other quality-of-life issues as the COVID-19 pandemic fades into a new lull, but Mayor Lori Lightfoot remains as unpopular as ever, a new Chicago Index survey found last month. 

    The survey, which polled 998 Chicago residents and 243 Cook County suburbanites between Feb. 7 and Feb. 21, found that just 13 percent of Chicagoans approve of Lightfoot’s performance, down from 16 percent from a similar survey conducted in November and December 2021. And just 14 percent of city residents believe the city is on the “right track” — a slight improvement over the 9 percent who thought as much during the last survey.   

    However, the poll showed Chicagoans’ opinions bouncing back on several key metrics — including in their feelings of public safety, which hit new lows last quarter.  

    Related: More than 2 in 3 Chicagoans feel unsafe in their own neighborhoods, Chicago Index survey finds  

    Fifty-three percent of respondents rated Chicago “excellent” or “good” as a place to live in the February survey, up from 40 percent in the fourth quarter. Respondents who positively rated their neighborhood’s “sense of community” similarly jumped from 39 percent to 51 percent, and residents notched significant jumps in how they rate the city as a place to live and raise children.  

    About one-third of respondents positively rated the city’s safety in the latest survey, up from 26 percent last quarter. The latest survey also registered significant jumps in feelings of safety around retail shopping, transit use and going to live entertainment events.  

    The poll represents the fifth iteration of the quarterly Chicago Index poll, a collaboration between The Daily Line and Crain’s combining probability and non-probability sampling of Cook County residents. The results are weighted by age, race, gender, homeownership and area of residence within the city. The survey was conducted by the Colorado-based Polco, and its margin of error is 3 percent.  

    “Because safety is one of the strongest predictors of community quality of life, it was not surprising that the scores given to Chicago as a place to live and assessments of the sense of community in Chicago dropped in Quarter 4 along with decreased feelings of safety,” Polco researchers wrote in a summary accompanying the survey results. “Thus, along with increases in safety, the Quarter 1, 2022 index found these quality of life assessments returned to Quarter 3 levels.”  

    About 250 of the people who responded to the February survey also responded to the fourth-quarter poll.  

    The Chicago City Council’s approval rating bounced up to 28 percent in the most recent survey after hitting 18 percent last quarter. Approval for Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle also bounced up from 34 percent to 45 percent, reverting back to its previous baseline. And Gov. JB Pritzker’s rating among Cook County residents also bumped up, hitting 63 percent after sagging to 56 percent at the end of 2021.  

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    And while the City Council’s overall approval rating remains stubbornly low, a majority of respondents — 53 percent — said they approve of their own alderman. During the last survey, only 45 percent said as much.  

    Multiple Chicago city departments also saw approval bumps during the last survey — especially the city’s Department of Planning and Development, whose rating grew from 31 percent to 40 percent. And the Chicago Park District’s rating also reached 76 percent, bouncing back after sliding during the second half of last year.  

    Related: Park District is falling out of favor with Chicagoans, new Chicago Index poll finds  

    Respondents continued to rate “improving the performance of Chicago’s schools” and “reducing political corruption” among their top priorities, with 88 percent and 85 percent of those surveyed respectively calling those goals “very important” or “essential.” Additionally, 88 percent said city leaders should prioritize “investing in city infrastructure.” 

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