Is Emanuel rebuilding his rep with voters?

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A pair of new polls taken for candidates in the upcoming Democratic primary suggest Mayor Rahm Emanuel has made progress toward rebuilding his standing with voters after the meltdown following the shooting of Laquan McDonald.

The surveys, taken for U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley and a statewide candidate who asked not to be named, indicate that Emanuel’s personal popularity now is back above 50 percent. That’s by no means high enough to guarantee him re-election if, as expected, he runs for a third term a year from now, but overall it’s not bad.

There are some asterisks in the numbers that I’ll explain in a minute. But they may help explain why Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, who had been pondering another race against Emanuel, instead leapt at a chance to succeed the retiring Luis Gutierrez in Congress.

Here are the numbers. All are for likely voters in the March Democratic primary, a group that represents the single largest chunk of a likely mayoral electorate.

The survey in Quigley’s district, which once was represented in Congress by Emanuel and which covers most of the North and Northwest sides, found Emanuel’s personal popularity 57 percent favorable and 41 percent unfavorable—overall positive, or “above water,” as pollsters say. Emanuel’s job performance also was a net positive, though by a smaller margin of 52 percent to 46 percent.

Quigley’s numbers were considerably higher, 71 percent to 10 percent in personal popularity, 68 percent to 16 percent on job performance. But even if he’s not doing as well as the congressman, the figures, if accurate, indicate that Emanuel is viewed favorably at least among an area of the city that represents his political base.

The survey was conducted by pollster Brian Stryker of ALG Research of 500 likely voters and has a sampling error of plus or minus 4.4 percent.

The other survey—actually, results of two polls of 584 likely voters conducted in late October and then late November—was conducted by a national firm that has done work in Illinois. The pollster involved asked questions about Emanuel as part of his survey for a statewide candidate, and while neither will allow their names to be used, I spoke with the pollster directly.

In this survey, Emanuel got a citywide personal favorable rating of 50 percent positive and 40 percent negative. His rating from African-Americans was slightly better than among whites, 51/37 vs. 51/42, due mostly to a strong 56/32 rating from black women.

Emanuel’s rating on the North Side was 53 percent favorable to 38 percent unfavorable, fairly close to the results in Quigley’s district. The split was narrower on the South Side, 49 percent to 40 percent, and almost even on the West Side, 47 percent to 44 percent.

Those numbers collectively “look like the coalition that elected him last time,” said the pollster, asserting that Emanuel’s public efforts to get more state school aid for Chicago Public Schools, hire more police and help immigrants are having an impact. And overall, Emanuel’s numbers probably are stronger than they appear because the survey excludes Republicans, who likely would lean toward the mayor in a challenge from a progressive on the political left such as Garcia, the pollster said.

Emanuel spokesman Pete Giangreco said the mayor’s political operation would not comment on whether it’s done its own polling. But he hailed the figures as a sign that the mayor “has reconnected with his base.”

This survey has an error margin of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

It’s hard to say anything for sure in politics these days. But these numbers, if accurate, at a minimum are not bad news for Emanuel, and may be considerably better than that.

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