The Policy Shop: What do Chicago voters want?

The Policy Shop: What do Chicago voters want?

This edition of The Policy Shop is by Amy Korte, executive vice president of the Illinois Policy Institute.

Happy Election Day, Chicagoans. (And happy Tuesday to everyone else.) We’re bumping up our send date by a day because by tomorrow we’ll likely know who made the Chicago mayoral runoff, and we want to give you some insight into where voters stand this Election Day.

We just released our first Chicago poll in partnership with Echelon Insights. We’ll be doing a second poll toward the end of the year to see how attitudes change. (You can see the poll toplines here and the crosstable here.)

This first round gave us a lot of interesting information.

71% of Chicago voters view crime as a top-2 issue

Crime (71%) and high taxes (27%) are top concerns for Chicagoans, with education close behind.

Crime in Chicago overall has increased during the past four years by nearly 20%, according to an official report by the Chicago Police Department. The year-over-year change in crime was even greater last year. Between 2021 and 2022, overall crime in Chicago increased by 41%.

The poll also found when it comes to tackling crime in the city, Chicagoans tend to prefer a larger police presence and more rigorous prosecution of offenders, though 45% favor an approach to public safety that addresses the root causes of crime, such as poverty and a lack of jobs.

Chicagoans also feel the pinch from paying some of the highest taxes in the nation. Chicago’s 911 surchargewireless taxesamusement taxsoft drink taxbottled water taxcigarette taxparking taxridesharing and homesharing fees were among the highest among other large U.S. cities as recently as 2018. The city’s total combined state and local sales tax rate was tied for second highest among major U.S. cities as of 2021.

And don’t get us started on property taxes (OK, fine, let’s do this).

During the past 10 years, Chicago’s property tax levy has doubled, growing from $860 million to more than $1.7 billion in 2023. These increases raise costs for homeowners, renters and businesses across the city.

Maybe that’s why a majority of Chicagoans support a property tax freeze.

Chicago voters favor freezing city's property taxes by 51-point margin

Public education gets a failing grade, but school choice passes with flying colors

Just 33% of Chicagoans were satisfied with public education in Chicago. We’re not surprised, and our kids deserve better. Nearly 80% of Chicago 11th graders could not read or perform math at grade level, according to state data from 2022. Nearly half of CPS students were chronically absent during the 2021-2022 school year. Between 2010 and 2022, the district lost more than 87,000 students — more than a 20% drop, according to an Illinois Policy Institute analysis of CPS enrollment data.

Chicago voters support school choice by a 31-point margin

The poll also found 62% of Chicagoans support school choice, with 65% of Chicagoans supporting Invest in Kids, a state tax-credit program that gives low-income students access to scholarship funds that allow them to pursue the education that best fits their needs. In 2023, lawmakers will have a chance to make this popular program permanent. If they don’t, it goes away.

Chicago's Invest in Kids tax credit scholarship support by voters 65-28

Oh, and parents say CTU has too much power over the city

More than half of Chicago parents think the Chicago Teachers Union has too much influence over city government, compared to 15% who say it has too little.

52% of Chicago parents say Chicago Teachers Union has too much influence over the city

Mayor Lori Lightfoot, U.S. Rep. Jesús “Chuy” Garcia and Paul Vallas for weeks have been neck and neck … and neck. But a new poll shows CTU organizer Brandon Johnson is making a last-minute push that may get him to the April 4 runoff election (the top two vote getters go to the April 4 runoff if nobody gets more than 50% of the Feb. 28 vote). The timing of Johnson’s jump is interesting, as the union, whose leadership is all-in on Johnson’s campaign, is facing scrutiny over a $415,000 loan to union-controlled political action committees using member dues. The PACs have spent funds on Johnson’s campaign and on some City Council races.

There’s even open rebellion against CTU’s radical leadership and its defiance of union democracy. A group of disgruntled Chicago teachers and CTU members joined WTTW to decry CTU leadership’s mismanagement and the fact they’re ignoring members and the democratic process within the union. Now, the union has used an open memo to attack members who spoke out. And union communications flout the political nature of the union’s leadership.

Despite the city’s problems, people want to stay in Chicago

Great news: More people said they would prefer to stay in Chicago than leave. We just need city leaders to work hard pursuing reforms that make this an easier choice.

Of those saying they would leave Chicago if given the opportunity, 85% cited crime or safety, and 39% cited taxes or affordability in open-ended responses as to why they want to move.

59% would rather stay in Chicago, 34% prefer to leave


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