Thursday, December 16, 2010

Polls spin similar stats oh so differently

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. But while Andy Williams was referring to the coming of the Christmas holiday season in his 1963 recording, I’m referring to the fact that we’re now close enough to an Election Day that we can start getting polls to chew over – hoping to pick up on some tidbit that offers us the “meaning of life” – Chicago political style.
Who got more right; the Tribune ...

The apparent frontrunner in the campaign for mayor, Rahm Emanuel, made sure earlier this week we all saw the poll he commissioned. Now, the Chicago Tribune (the one local news organization that still commissions regular polls about local campaigns) has kicked in with their own thoughts about who we Chicagoans will vote for on Feb. 22.

BIG SURPRISE. BOTH polls show that far more people are backing Emanuel for mayor than any other individual candidate. Of course, considering that we have heard little more than “Rahm” in the news coverage related to the campaign, some might very well think that Emanuel is the only candidate.

In fact, having a recent conversation with a cousin who wanted to talk about Chicago electoral politics, it amazed me that he had trouble recalling all of the so-called leading candidates. It has become, in his mind, Emanuel and some other people.

I expect my cousin – a life-long Hegewisch neighborhood resident – is not the least bit unique.

For the record, Emanuel’s poll says he takes 43 percent of the vote, compared to 32 percent in the Tribune-commissioned poll.

BOTH POLLS ARE remarkably similar in that they indicate that no other candidate has more than 9 percent support. They’re all in single digits.
... or Rahm?

Insofar as the fight to avoid finishing in third place, or lower (so as to qualify for an April 5 runoff election if Emanuel can’t take a majority), the Tribune poll has both Rep. Danny Davis and former Chicago Public Schools head Gery Chico at 9 percent – with the other candidates lagging behind them.

Of course, that isn’t too different from the Emanuel poll, which has four candidates bunched up together for second place (figuring that former Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun and city Clerk Miguel del Valle are also in the mix).

Now as much as I realize the primary purpose of the Chicago Tribune poll is to get political writers to say or type the words “Chicago Tribune” as many times as possible when we write our own dispatches, and that any poll commissioned by Emanuel is going to have the bias of being done to make him feel as warm and fuzzy as possible (which may be why he was able to hold his tongue during his day-long stint of testimony before the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners), I’m not going to totally dismiss these results.

THEY DO INDICATE one fact – it is early. This all goes onto name recognition (although I find it hard to believe that the dreaded “Rahm-bo” who terrorized federal government officials supposedly has a 54 percent favorable rating from Chicago voters). In fact, the only candidate according to Emanuel’s poll who generates a negative rating was Moseley-Braun (39 percent “cool,” compared to 35 percent “warm”). But she’s a factor because 90 percent of those surveyed knew who she was.

The spin created by the Emanuel poll was that Rahm is close to getting a majority vote, which would let him win the post of Chicago mayor without having to do a runoff election. The Tribune took the opposite position – claiming that there are still enough “undecided” people that a runoff is likely.

The Tribune poll says that 30 percent of us are still undecided about who we’d back, while Emanuel’s poll says there are only 7 percent undecided. That is the biggest difference between the sets of statistics offered up by the two studies.

Although I have to confess one other difference jumped out at me – the supposed breakdown of the Latino voter bloc.

THE TRIBUNE SEEMS to think that Emanuel is the favorite of Latinos, taking 27 percent support, with del Valle getting 14 percent, 12 percent going for Chico (who is a Mexican/Greek/Lithuanian-American) and 36 percent of us having yet to make up our minds.

By comparison, Emanuel’s poll shows him losing the Latino vote to del Valle, 37 percent to 32 percent, with Chico getting 9 percent, Moseley-Braun at 5 percent and everybody else (including the Rev. Wilfredo DeJesus) under 4 percent.

So either the Tribune found a stash of clueless Latinos (which could well include my cousin, who admits he’d like to see a Latino at City Hall, but doesn’t know which of the three candidates he’d prefer), or perhaps Rahm’s poll is onto something.

Because the idea that a veteran politico who was the first head of a Latino Caucus in the state Legislature and is now a city-wide official looking to move up to the top post would be the preference of voters with an interest in Latino political empowerment makes so much more sense than what the one-time World’s Greatest Newspaper is offering up to us.


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