Preckwinkle leading in union poll; voters also see Chicago schools on the wrong track

A Chicago Teachers Union poll released Tuesday casts county President Toni Preckwinkle ahead of other contenders in February’s mayoral race, followed by Bill Daley and state Comptroller Susana Mendoza.

In the poll of 600 likely voters, respondents split nearly evenly on the question of whether they thought the school district was on the wrong track. As for issues that voters cared about most, respondents listed first crime and public safety followed by education.

Related: On returning Chicago school board control to voters, mayoral candidates are split

Nearly one in five respondents were undecided about a favored candidate in the crowded field of 15. The poll showed Preckwinkle, the union’s endorsed candidate, favored by 18 percent of respondents, followed by Susana Mendoza with 12 percent and Bill Daley with 10 percent. The union said late last week it wouldn’t back down from its Preckwinkle endorsement despite allegations that a longtime Chicago alderman, Edward Burke, tried to extort a fast-food business owner for a campaign contribution on her behalf. Burke was charged last week with one count of attempted extortion in a federal case. 

The poll found that Preckwinkle so far has the biggest advantage among African-American voters, Mendoza has the biggest advantage with Latino voters, and that white voters are split fairly evenly among the top three candidates.

Both policy consultant Amara Enyia and former police chief Garry McCarthy each were named by 7 percent of respondents. Former schools chief Paul Vallas and businessman Willie Wilson each were favored by 6 percent.

Both former Chicago Police Board President Lori Lightfoot and Gery Chico each were named by 5 percent, Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown by 4 percent, and both former alderman Bob Fioretti and State Rep. La Shawn K. Ford attracted 1 percent.

When asked about their biggest concerns in Chicago, 19 percent named crime and public safety, 16 percent education, 15 percent property taxes, 12 percent jobs and the economy, and 9 percent corruption and community-police relations.

When asked about how well Mayor Rahm Emanuel has handled education, about one in three rated him excellent or good. The Chicago school district fared even worse, with just 27 percent of respondents rating it excellent or good.

The vast majority of voters polled said they wanted the next mayor to prioritize new investments in education, neighborhood schools, and teachers.

The poll was designed and administered for the union by Lake Research Partners, which telephoned likely voters from Dec. 11 to Dec. 16.