Mayor Brandon Johnson’s popularity has taken a hit since he delivered his inaugural address at Credit Union 1 Arena on the campus of the University of Illinois-Chicago.
After eight months in office, only 21% of registered Chicago voters approve of Brandon Johnson’s performance as mayor, according to a recent poll conducted for an education reform group that advocates for school choice.
The question that provides the first known measure of Johnson’s early performance was piggybacked onto a poll of 500 registered voters bankrolled by Stand for Children, a group Chicago Teachers Union President Staci Davis Gates derisively called “Stand On Children” and dismissed as “right wing.”
Voters were asked “how you feel each of the following is performing.” The list included “Brandon Johnson as Chicago Mayor.”
The results were staggering even for a mayor who has spent his first eight months struggling to get a handle on Chicago’s burgeoning migrant crisis amid mounting tensions with Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker.
Only 7% of those surveyed rated Johnson’s performance as mayor as “excellent” with another 14% rating it as “good.” The remaining 69% either rated Johnson’s performance “only fair” (27%) or “poor” (43%) or said they “didn’t know” (10%).
Among Black men, 14% rated Johnson’s performance as “excellent or good,” with 67% branding the work he’s done as mayor as “fair or poor.”
Johnson got a “fair or poor” job rating from 75% of white registered voters surveyed and 69% of Latinos questioned.
The poll was conducted Jan.4-9 by Tulchin Research, a prominent Democratic pollster whose clients include County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and the Cook County Regular Democratic Organization she chairs; California Gov. Gavin Newsome; New York City Mayor Eric Adams; and former Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, whose endorsement of and rally for Brandon Johnson was a turning point in the race for Chicago mayor.
The poll has a margin of error of plus-or-minus 4.38 percentage points.
Christian Perry, Johnson’s political director, was unfazed by the early returns.
“We’re very proud about the mayor’s accomplishments thus far. The mayor’s gonna continue to invest in the working class people of this city, like he’s done throughout the first year of his tenure,” Perry said, pointing to a progressive checklist that includes eliminating the sub-minimum wages for tipped workers, increasing paid leave and increasing jobs for young people.
Other sources in Johnson’s political camp poked holes in the “illegitimacy” of everything from “who actually was polled in this 500-sample size” to the framing of the questions asked.
“We don’t take any stock in skewed polls commissioned by those opposed to the mayor’s agenda. This is the same kind of poll that showed Brandon Johnson wouldn’t be mayor. They were wrong then. They are wrong now,” Johnson campaign spokesman Bill Neidhart wrote in a text message to the Sun-Times.
Ben Krompack, vice president of Tulchin Research, denied the poll was skewed or illegitimate.
“We conducted a multi-modal survey, which was interviews initiated by live telephone interviewers calling both land lines and cell phones as well as surveys completed on-line from individuals contacted by either email or text message,” Krompack said.
“It’s a representative sample of registered voters in Chicago. The demographics — age, race, geography, gender — are reflective of the demographic voter electorate in the city.”
Jessica Handy, executive director of Stand for Children, said her group bankrolled a “credible poll by a credible pollster.”
Several questions centered around Johnson’s hand-picked school board deciding to, as the poll put it, “transition away from Chicago’s network of selective enrollment magnet and charter schools in order to increase enrollment in neighborhood schools.”
But Handy denied Stand for Children is universally “opposed to the mayor’s agenda.”
“We disagree on some items, but there are many things that we agree with them on, particularly with regard to equitable school funding. We’ve worked hard … to put forth policies that are student-centered first and grounded in equity,” she said.
Davis Gates countered that Stand for Children “came to Chicago when Karen Lewis was the president of this union to destroy us” bankrolled by “people like Bruce Rauner,” the former Republican governor.
“Stand for Children is funded by rich people who have never wanted Black children to be educated equitably in this city. Of course, when you have a Black man who is the mayor of this city advocating for the humanity of these Black children and for the equity of these Black children, of course they would put out an instrument that says something counter to that.”