Chicago, you spoke and we listened.
There are nine candidates running for mayor in the February 28 Chicago city election. With such a vast field, it can be difficult to figure out where each of them stands on the issues that matter most to you.
So WBEZ worked with the Chicago Sun Times and the University of Chicago Institute of Politics to launch the popular agenda. We asked the citizens of Chicago what mayoral candidates should be talking about this election season and for the questions they would like to ask the next mayor. We’re using this input to shape our city’s election coverage with digital tools, candidate forums, and more.
You’ve given us more than 1,700 responses so far! Our poll wasn’t scientific, but we made a deliberate effort to listen to people all over the city.
Here’s a core breakdown of what you’ve told us up until January 27, and what our reporters intend to do with your input. (And if you still have ideas to share or questions to ask, you are not too late.)
What were the main problems? Crime, CTA, economic development
By far, the issue most respondents said candidates should talk about was crime and public safety. More than half of all responses to the People’s Agenda survey – 54% – concerned crime and justice. More than 200 responses mentioned gun violence and more than 200 concerned police reform. People wanted to know how the next mayor would fare on auto theft, police personnel and police welfare.
Here is an overview of the other top issues and questions raised by Chicagoans. (Note that most of the answers addressed multiple problems, so the numbers don’t add up to 100%.)
If you are fed up with CTA delays, dirty El trains and “ghost buses”, you are not alone. Nearly a third of respondents, 30%, cited transport as a major issue. Outside of crime, making the CTA safer, cleaner and more reliable was the top topic in the survey. More than 200 people also wanted to hear mayoral candidates talk about plans for more bike lanes and pedestrian streets.
More than a quarter of the responses – more than 450 – said they wanted to listen the plans of the mayoral candidates regarding economic development. The top issues in this category are related to divestment and reinvestment in Chicago neighborhoods, improving the business climate, creating a more equitable city, and revitalizing downtown in the wake of COVID-19.
One in four responses concerned education and children, with many people wanting to know how the next mayor would make education more equitable — and adequately funded — for Chicago public school students across the city. People also wondered how the next mayor would handle City Hall’s relationship with the Chicago Teachers Union, after more than a decade of conflict and on-and-off strikes.
Completing the top five questions was housing, which accounted for more than 23% of the answers addressed. Creating more affordable housing, especially in gentrifying neighborhoods, has been a major issue in this category. People also wanted to hear how the next mayor would address the city’s growing homelessness problem, and many asked for the candidates’ positions on the proposal. Bring Chicago Home Ordinance.
What happens next?
The goal of engagement journalism projects like this one is to give you actionable, actionable information — in this case, to elevate your voice in our city’s election coverage and help you decide how you’ll vote on February 28. To that end, reporters from the WBEZ and the Chicago Sun Times they are creating different things based on your contribution to the survey.
We publish mayoral candidate responses to a questionnaire that raised many of the same important questions seen in the Popular Agenda poll. We’ve asked mayoral candidates 23 yes-or-no questions and put together a digital guide so you can clearly see where they stand. You can also take a quiz to see which candidates your opinions most align with.
On February 8 and 9, the WBEZ midday talk show Restore will host forums with all mayoral candidates. This is where we’ll be asking many of the questions you asked in our People’s Agenda survey directly to applicants. You can listen both days at 11am CT, or you can register to watch the broadcasts in person at the University of Illinois at Chicago or the University of Chicago.
Starting in February, we’ll also be creating a short-term newsletter based on the top issues you raised in our survey.
The Chicago Sun Times the editorial team is also planning a series of editorials based on the issues most raised in the People’s Agenda.
Who took part in the Popular Agenda survey?
WBEZ, the Sun-Times and the University of Chicago Institute of Politics have released the poll online, on radio, in print and on social media. WBEZ’s Community Engagement Team and UChicago students also traveled in person throughout Chicago to hear first-hand from the audience. Outreach partners—neighborhood organizations, community groups, and nonprofits—helped spread the survey through their own channels as well.
As of 27 January, the survey had received 1,735 responses from 210 postcodes. About half – nearly 52% – were from people who identified as white, 22% who did not disclose their race/ethnicity, 11% who identified as black, about 9% who identified as Hispanic/Latino/Latino, 3.5% as Asian, 2% as some other race, and less than 1% as Native American or Pacific Islander. 45% of respondents said they were under 35 and about 21% said they were over 65.
Alex Keefe is the WBEZ Engagement Editor. You can email him about this project at firstname.lastname@example.org.