Crime Top Issue for Voters; Majority Feel there is More Crime Today Than a Year Ago

The Emerson College Polling/WGN-TV/The Hill poll of the Chicago runoff election finds Paul Vallas with a five-point lead over Brandon Johnson, 46% to 41%. Thirteen percent of voters are undecided. When undecided voters are asked which candidate they lean toward, and the vote is accounted for, Vallas’ lead over Johnson increases to six points, 53% to 47%. 

Spencer Kimball, Executive Director of Emerson College Polling, said: “There is a stark age divide in the mayoral runoff: 58% of young voters between 18 and 34 support Johnson, and Johnson holds a three-point lead over Vallas among voters between 35 and 49, 46% to 43%. Vallas’s strength is with voters over 50, 52% of whom plan to vote for him.” 

Kimball continued: “Men support Vallas as the next Mayor of Chicago over Johnson, 52% to 39%, whereas women are more split: 43% support Johnson and 41% support Vallas.”

Fifty-six percent (56%) of voters hold a favorable view of Paul Vallas, and 53% have a favorable view of Brandon Johnson. Thirty-six percent (36%) have an unfavorable view of Vallas while 40% have an unfavorable view of Johnson. 

Seventy percent (70%) of voters think Chicago is on the wrong track, whereas 30% think it is headed in the right direction. A majority of Chicago runoff voters (52%) agree crime is the most important issue determining whom they support for Mayor, followed by education at 11%, taxes at 9%, and housing at 7%. Sixty-one percent of voters feel there is more crime in Chicago today than there was a year ago, 31% feel there is the same amount of crime, and 8% feel there is less crime.

“Of those who feel there is more crime in Chicago than there was a year ago, 59% are voting for Vallas and 27% Johnson,” Kimball noted. “Of those who think there is the same amount of crime, 60% plan to support Johnson and 27% Vallas.”

Voters were asked who they trust more to handle crime in Chicago, Paul Vallas or Brandon Johnson. A majority of voters (54%) trust Vallas more, while 38% trust Johnson more to handle crime in Chicago. Nine percent trust both equally. 

Similarly, regarding whom they trust to handle city finances, 50% trust Vallas while 37% trust Johnson. Voters are more split on which candidate they trust more to handle education in Chicago: 48% trust Vallas, 41% Johnson, and 11% trust both equally.


The Emerson College Polling/WGN-TV/The Hill Chicago poll was conducted March 23-25, 2023. The sample consisted of very likely voters, n=1,000, with a Credibility Interval (CI), similar to a poll’s margin of error (MOE) of +/- 3 percentage points. The data sets were weighted by gender, age, education, and race/ethnicity based on 2023 turnout modeling. Turnout modeling is based on US Census parameters, and Illinois voter registration and voter turnout data (Illinois Secretary of State). 

It is important to remember that subsets based on demographics, such as gender, age, education, and race/ethnicity, carry with them higher credibility intervals, as the sample size is reduced. Survey results should be understood within the poll’s range of scores, and know with a confidence interval of 95% a poll will fall outside the range of scores 1 in 20 times.

Data was collected by contacting cell phones via SMS-to-web, an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system of landlines, a consumer list of emails, and an online panel of 18-34 year olds via Centiment.

Probability-based sampling methods are used by contacting a list of registered voters provided by Aristotle, via cell phones via SMS-to-web and landlines via Interactive Voice Response (IVR), and a consumer list of emails. Non-probability based sampling methods are implemented by contacting an online panel, provided by Centiment. The online panel supplements the landline and cellphone sample by contacting 18-34 year old Chicago residents.

Attention checks are included in surveys. Quality checks are implemented for time, either too short or too long. Inconsistencies in answer choices are checked, for example non-registered voters claiming to have voted in previous elections. Individuals who straight-line a survey are eliminated from the sample. Respondents are tracked to ensure only one survey per SMS web link can be completed. 

This survey was conducted by Emerson College Polling, and sponsored by Nexstar Media. All questions asked in this survey with exact wording, along with full results and cross tabulations can be found here.