Vallas holds narrow lead in Chicago mayoral runoff: poll

Paul Vallas is running ahead of Brandon Johnson in the Chicago mayoral race with little more than a week to go before the April 4 runoff, according to a new Emerson College Polling/WGN-TV/The Hill poll released Monday. 

Forty-six percent of Chicago voters say they’re backing Vallas, a former Chicago Public Schools CEO, in next week’s runoff, putting him 5 points ahead of Johnson, a Cook County commissioner and former teacher. Thirteen percent are still undecided in the race. 

Vallas’s lead grows slightly when undecided voters were pressed on which candidate they’re leaning toward. In that scenario, Vallas’s support rises to 53 percent while Johnson comes in with 47 percent, the poll found.

The data, however, reveals a stark demographic divide in the mayoral runoff;  58 percent of young voters — those between 18 and 24 years old — favor Johnson, while Vallas performs better among voters 50 and over, drawing 52 percent support. 

And men are also leaning toward Vallas, with 52 percent saying they plan to vote for him over Johnson. Women, meanwhile, are more evenly split; forty-three percent say they’re backing Johnson, while 41 percent are supporting Vallas. 

Vallas and Johnson emerged as the top two vote-getters in a nine-way mayoral race last month that also saw incumbent Lori Lightfoot become the first Chicago mayor in 40 years to lose reelection. 

The contest has increasingly centered on crime and public safety, pitting Vallas’s tough-on-crime approach against the more reform-minded proposals of Johnson, who has called for the city to address the root causes of crime.

The Emerson College Polling/WGN-TV/The Hill poll found that most Chicago runoff voters — 52 percent — believe that crime is the most important issue in the race. And 61 percent say that they feel that there’s more crime in Chicago today than there was a year ago. 

Spencer Kimball, the executive director of Emerson College Polling, said that that perception factors into whom voters are planning to support in next week’s runoff.

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

At the same time, most voters – 54 percent – say they trust Vallas more to handle crime in the nation’s third-largest city. Thirty-eight percent say Johnson is better equipped to take on the issue, according to the poll. 

The Emerson College Polling/WGN-TV/The Hill poll surveyed 1,000 very likely Chicago voters from March 23-25. It has a credibility interview — similar to a margin of error — of +/-3 percentage points.

Tags Brandon Johnson Chicago mayor's race Lori Lightfoot Paul Vallas

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