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Chicagoans think Mayor Emanuel handled NATO well: retailers’ poll

Updated: July 3, 2012 12:22PM

Sixty-four percent of Chicagoans approve of the job Mayor Rahm Emanuel is doing, 57 percent believe he has improved the city’s business climate, and 78 percent like the way Emanuel handled the NATO summit, a new poll shows.

The poll commissioned last Thursday by the Chicago committee of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association also asked 1,267 registered voters whether Chicago Public School teachers should wait for an independent arbitrator’s ruling before going on strike.

More than 71 percent responded that the teachers should wait for the third-party report. That sounds significant until you realize that’s precisely what the process requires.

The issue is not when teachers would go on strike. The issue is when they would vote to do so.

Emanuel wants them to wait until the arbitrator’s report is issued in mid-summer, when many teachers will be on vacation. The union — which staged a raucous march and rally last week — reserves the right to call for a strike vote before the school year ends.

“People don’t understand the distinction,” said David Vite, president of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association.

Tom Bowen, head of the mayor’s political committee, called it a “nuance distinction” that poll respondents don’t really understand.

“If they vote to strike, that’s them striking, according to the voters. Clearly, voters want a third-party report to come out before there’s any talk of a strike,” Bowen said.

During the mayoral campaign, the merchants group paid for polling every two weeks to gauge the popularity of the four major mayoral candidates.

Now, the retailers group has commissioned yet another poll timed to coincide with the anniversary of Emanuel’s first year in office.

Conducted last Thursday by “We Ask America,” the poll of 1,267 registered voters has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.76 percentage points.

It showed that 64.2 percent of those surveyed approve of the job Emanuel is doing. That’s more than 12 percentage points higher than a recent poll conducted by the Chicago Tribune and WGN-TV.

When asked how the rookie mayor stacks up when it comes to improving Chicago’s business climate, 28.1 percent gave Emanuel an “excellent” rating and 29.2 percent graded him “good.” That’s an overall approval rating of 57.3 percent.

The Chicago Police Department’s highly acclaimed performance during the NATO summit also reflected well on the mayor.

Asked how Emanuel handled the summit, 55.5 percent said he did a “great job” and 23.3 percent credited the mayor with doing a “good job.” That’s an overall approval rate of 78.8 percent.

The continuous polling begs the question why the retailers group has gone to the expense and precisely what more it hopes to get out of City Hall.

Since taking office, Emanuel has cut the city’s head tax in half, consolidated business licenses and been relentless in pursuing private-sector jobs. He has promised to streamline inspections, yet another pet peeve of businesses.

“We get our name in front of policymakers. They know that we’re active in the political arena in Chicago, that we are paying attention to what people think and hopefully when we speak, people will listen,” Vite said. “We’re not doing polling for him. We’re doing polling about him. Same as we did when he was running.

“Occasionally, it makes sense to go into the field and see what people think because it has an impact on how he will govern and how the City Council will react to him based on what people think. It’s pretty clear that, right now, people think highly of him.”

Bowen said the retailers’ numbers jibe with the mayor’s own internal polls and are “pretty consistent with where we know the mayor to be. ... The mayor’s numbers are very strong after one year and he’s popular among all segments of Chicagoans.”

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