• Joel Ebert
    JUL 23, 2021

    UNLOCKED

    Pritzker clings to popularity among Cook County residents as reelection kicks off, new Chicago Index survey finds

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    Gov. JB Pritzker is more popular in Cook County than Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot or county board President Toni Preckwinkle, according to a new Chicago Index survey.

    Gov. JB Pritzker remains more popular than the Illinois General Assembly, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle among residents of Cook County, according to a new survey from The Chicago Index, a joint effort by Crain’s and The Daily Line 

    A newly released second quarter survey found 65 percent of respondents approved of the job Pritzker was doing. The latest measure is slightly better than the 64 percent approval rating Pritzker earned during The Chicago Index’s first survey, which was conducted during the first quarter of this year.   

    The second quarter survey, which was conducted between June 7 and June 25 by national community engagement firm Polco, polled 812 respondents living in Cook County. The survey was weighted to reflect the city’s demographics and had a 4.1 percent credibility interval.  

    Broken down further, Pritzker remains more popular in Chicago than in the suburbs of Cook County, with 66 percent of Chicagoans giving the governor their approval versus 61 percent of suburbanites.

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    By comparison, only 50 percent of respondents said they approved of the Illinois General Assembly. Fifty-one percent of those surveyed said they approved of Preckwinkle’s job while Lightfoot had an approval rating of 26 percent.

    Related: CPS, police department drag down Lightfoot’s approval as Pritzker remains popular in Chicago, Chicago Index poll finds  

    The survey, while limited to Illinois’ most Democratic-friendly part of the state, is welcome news to the governor days after he announced his reelection bid.  

    Related: Pritzker touts accomplishments, targets property tax reform for second term as reelection effort begins  

    University of Illinois at Chicago political science professor Dick Simpson said Thursday that Pritzker’s support among Cook County residents is hardly surprising, given the state’s recent bond rating upgrades and the passage of a state budget, which he noted maintained funding for higher education and other major areas.  

    Simpson said given such factors, unless there is “an intervening event of a major sort,” Pritzker will have “an easy reelection campaign.” 

    Simpson noted Pritzker’s current Republican opponents — businessman Gary RabineSen. Darren Bailey (R-Xenia) and former Sen. Paul Schimpf — lack not only name recognition compared to the governor, but also money.  

    “If the election were held today, he’d clearly win,” Simpson said. “He has sufficient money to get his message out.” 

    The latest campaign finance disclosures indicate Pritzker has $32 million available to spend on the race while Rabine, Bailey and Schimpf have less than $900,000 combined.  

    Related: Pritzker dwarfs GOP challengers in money race 

    “None of the Republican candidates…start from that level and they don’t have the resources to change their perception significantly,” said Simpson. 

    The political scientist and former Chicago alderman said Pritzker’s superior standing in The Chicago Index survey compared to Lightfoot comes after both Pritzker and Lightfoot enjoyed significant approval bumps during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

    “Because of other issues, particularly crime and some of the fights in the City Council, her overall approval has dropped,” Simpson said.  

    Simpson said the “most important” issue facing Pritzker is the state’s economic recovery.  

    “People will feel good if the economy’s recovered and their own life is OK, and they will feel bad if they’re either out of work or an apartment,” he said. “The sense that the state and the city are doing things and that those are mostly working for more people will be critical in the image of the candidates when they run.” 

    Both Simpson and University of Illinois at Springfield emeritus political scientist Kent Redfield noted how polls frequently show elected bodies — be it Congress, the legislature or City Council — typically have lower approval ratings than individual public officials.  

    “In general, polling data consistently shows legislatures as institutions being less popular that individual legislators,” Redfield told The Daily Line. “Legislatures are just a group of faceless politicians.” 

    Acknowledging that Pritzker is “not a legislator,” Redfield said the governor is “much better known” to the average Illinoisans than state lawmakers.  

    “It is not surprising that after being on TV what seems like almost every day in the spring and summer and getting Illinois through 2020 that he would have a better approval rating than the General Assembly (a generic group of politicians), particularly from a poll of people in Cook County,” he said.  

    Overall, Redfield said he expects a Democratic governor to be “well regarded” in Cook County, calling his 65 percent approval rating in The Chicago Index survey “a solid number,” with the next general election 15 months away.  

    Looking back at Pritzker’s 2018 race, Redfield noted how Cook County consisted of 38 percent of the votes among “major party candidates, giving Pritzker an 836,000 vote margin. At the same time, Redfield noted the state’s five collar counties provided 23 percent of the overall votes for governor, giving Pritzker a 36,000 vote margin. Downstate counties made up 38 percent of the vote in 2018, giving former Gov. Bruce Rauner a 146,000 vote margin, Redfield said.  

    “So the strategy is straightforward,” he said. “Hold your base and build support in the suburbs and hope that the Republicans nominate a social conservative and that [Republican mega-donor] Ken Griffin thinks electing a Republican Supreme Court judge is a better investment than a longshot attempt to elect a Republican governor who would face super Democratic majorities in both chamber of the General Assembly.”  

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