Margins of error
It's weird polling season in the Chicago mayoral race
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Eric Zorn is a former opinion columnist for the Chicago Tribune. Find a longer bio and contact information here. This issue exceeds in size the maximum length for a standard email. To read the entire issue in your browser, click on the headline link above. Become a paid subscriber to receive each Picayune Plus in your email each Tuesday.
Vote early and often
My vote for best click-bait is the Chicago Reader’s annual Best of Chicago polls. That said, I urge you to open up the City Life ballot and vote for the Picayune Sentinel under best newsletter and best blog, vote for The Mincing Rascals as best podcast and vote for Brandon Pope, a member of the Rascals podcast team, for best beard.
Might as well also vote for me as the best Chicagoan to follow on Twitter, though I totally don’t deserve that designation
Mayoral polling ‘news’ is all over the place
Pollster Matt Podgorski, of the political consulting firm M3, said, "The big takeaway that we saw is that Chuy Garcia and Paul Vallas basically flip-flopped spots. Now I’ve got Paul Vallas in first place with 26% and Chuy Garcia in second with 19%." … (Brandon Johnson) surged from just 3.2% in M3’s December survey to 12.2% this week (Mayor Lightfoot) fell from 14.5% in December to single digit territory this week: 9.8%. Multi-millionaire businessman Willie Wilson also lost ground in the M3 poll. Wilson had 13.1% in December; 8.5% this week.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s internal polling, conducted January 18 to 22, shows her leading the race with 25%, followed closely by a surging Paul Vallas at 22%. Jesus "Chuy" Garcia, once considered the front runner, falls to third at 18%, followed by Willie Wilson at 11% and Brandon Johnson also on the rise at 9%. There are 10% undecided, no one else has more than 2%.
WMAQ-Ch. 5 political editor Mary Ann Ahern on Twitter Sunday:
Multiple sources reveal a new #ChiMayor23 Poll:
Vallas 32% Garcia 24% Lightfoot 18% Johnson 8% Undecided 14%
Lester and Associates poll released last Tuesday:
Garcia 21% Lightfoot 15% Vallas 10% Ald. Sophia King, 4th 8% Johnson 8% Wilson 5% Ja'Mal Green 5% Undecided 27%
Lester and Associates are working for King. The source of Ahern’s poll is unclear. Lightfoot’s poll is internal. Matt Podgorski was a Republican candidate for the Cook County Board last year and the news release says the M3 Strategies poll was commissioned by Americans for a Safer and Better Tomorrow, though Google cannot help me find either M3 Strategies or Americans for a Safer and Better Tomorrow.
Are these polls tendentious crap? Have other candidates taken polls and decided not to release them because the results don’t favor them? I don’t know. But every poll from interested parties should be viewed with extreme skepticism if not disregarded as campaign propaganda.
If news operations must report on such polls, they ought to remind readers, viewers and listeners of the range of results in these “scientific” surveys and always to consider the source.
Notes and comments from readers —lightly edited —- along with my responses
Maria C. — I believe a grave injustice has been done in the contest to name a city snowplow ( Plowy McPlowface isn’t among the finalists for snowplow names in Chicago). You see, my entry wasn't included in the finalists, and I think that my submission was the most Chicagocentric of all: "I Snow a Guy." I mean, seriously, right?
Ted B. — There are better blues-related names for Chicago snowplows. How about Big Bill Broomsy, Snow Diddley and Willie DigsIn?
Margaret L. — Thank you for your comments about the photo of four of the mayoral candidates praying after their endorsement interview with the Tribune Editorial Board. For not being "a Bible guy," you certainly found the chapter and verse that comes to mind for me as I consider this picture. (I'm both a Bible girl and a Constitution girl, and I think keeping a wall between those is part of this country's strength.) I remember a sermon about these verses that sums it up well. Our pastor growled out the end of the verses -- those who pray in secret (in the verses you cite) will be rewarded openly, but those who pray in public, just to be seen, "they have their reward." (Imagine that in a very growly and deep voice!)
Michael G. — I could not agree more with you about that ghastly picture of the four Pharisees seeking the mayorship flaunting their piety. I would not vote for any of them on that basis alone.
DavidL. — I found the photograph of the four Chicago mayoral candidates praying together to be inspirational. Four men of different ethnicities and markedly different views joined hands in asking God's guidance in their efforts to make Chicago a better place. I have a difficult time finding anything wrong with that. They were not attempting to impose nor even proselytize their religious views, but rather found themselves together after a mayoral candidate forum and joined together in prayer.
As a follower of Christ, I regularly lift people in prayer on an impromptu basis wherever I may be and with others in my company who may be similarly inclined upon learning of a natural or social disaster, or that someone is suffering or in need. It's sad that this could trigger people and evoke hostility.
If you are a believer, it is undeniable that Chicago is desperately in need of God's guidance, and this photograph would make me much more inclined to vote for any of these candidates if I were a Chicago voter.
To my mind and many others, this falls under the dreaded heading of “virtue signaling.”
Linnea C . — I can’t believe that the Chicago Magazine article you highlighted last week, “There Are No Hills in Orland Hills,” failed to mention the fact that there are no country clubs in Country Club Hills.
AKS — WBEZ FM 91.5 featured "Don’t Believe The Height! Why Chicago Suburb Names Flat Out Lie About Their Elevation" in a 2015 episode of “Curious City.” They list as possible reasons: Theory one: Flatness doesn’t feel good. Theory two: Impact of historic scenic imagery. Theory three: Local practicality (Higher places meant healthier places, and they were marketed as such). And Elmhurst, where I live, was originally "Cottage Hill."
Right. And southwest suburban Summit has no mountain peaks or even notable elevations. It got its names because it’s on the invisible watershed line between Lake Michigan and the Mississippi River.
Bob E. — Eric, when you identified “Oriental” as one of the terms decent people should avoid in your item, “Stanford posts, then pulls a ‘Harmful Language’ list,” you fell into the same trap as the language police
I draw your attention to “The term ‘Oriental’ is outdated, but is it racist?” a 2016 Los Angeles Times op-ed by Jayne Tsuchiyama, whose tag line identifies her as “a doctor of acupuncture and Oriental medicine.”
Apparently Asians are supposed to feel demeaned if someone refers to us as Orientals. But good luck finding a single Asian American who has ever had the word spat at them in anger. Most Asian Americans have had racist epithets hurled at them … but “Oriental” isn’t in the canon.
‘And why should it be? Literally, it means of the Orient or of the East, as opposed to of the Occident or of the West. Last I checked, geographic origin is not a slur. If it were, it would be wrong to label people from Mississippi as “Southerners.”
Dissenting commenters pointed to “The long history and slow death of a word once used to describe everyone and everything from Egypt to China as well as rugs,” a 2016 Washington Post op-ed by staff reporter Yanan Wang:
Western representations of “the Orient” perpetually grounded it in a state of un-belonging, in turn reducing “Oriental peoples” to exoticized caricatures… Just as “Negro” recalls slavery and Jim Crow, “Oriental” brings to mind such fraught historical moments as the Chinese Exclusion Act and the internment of thousands of Japanese Americans in the U.S. during World War II.
They also pointed to “'Oriental': Rugs, Not People,” a 2009 NPR interview with Jeff Yang, an Asian Pop columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle:
The term “Oriental” itself kind of feels freighted with luggage. You know, it's a term which you can't think of without having that sort of the smell of incense and the sound of a gong kind of in your head. … It feels antiquated, and for it to even be kind of contemplated occasionally and in casual usage is something which Asian-Americans certainly feel uncomfortable with, and you know, for it to be stricken from the public record just kind of makes sense in some ways.
I’m not going to tell any person of Asian descent how to feel about that word and I recognize there are differences of opinion within that community — as there are in the American Indian community over “redskin” — but given the decent chance that some will take offense, I see no harm in avoiding it.
Peter Z. — Scientists have discovered that Roman concrete is far superior than our modern concrete. It is able to repel water and thus lasts for hundreds/thousands of years versus our modern concrete. So I want Illinois to mandate the use of this concrete on all repairs and new construction. This should save lots of money as we go forward.
This recent development certainly is intriguing. Here’s Science News reporting on the experimental results of MIT chemist Admir Masic:
Cracking the recipe (for long lasting concrete) could be a boon to the planet. The Pantheon and its soaring, detailed concrete dome have stood nearly 2,000 years, for instance, while modern concrete structures have a lifespan of perhaps 150 years, and that’s a best case scenario . And the Romans didn’t have steel reinforcement bars shoring up their structures.
More frequent replacements of concrete structures means more greenhouse gas emissions. Concrete manufacturing is a huge source of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, so longer-lasting versions could reduce that carbon footprint. “We make 4 gigatons per year of this material,” Masic says. That manufacture produces as much as 1 metric ton of CO2 per metric ton of produced concrete, currently amounting to about 8 percent of annual global CO2 emissions.
Still, Masic says, the concrete industry is resistant to change. For one thing, there are concerns about introducing new chemistry into a tried-and-true mixture with well-known mechanical properties. But “the key bottleneck in the industry is the cost,” he says. Concrete is cheap, and companies don’t want to price themselves out of competition.
The researchers hope that reintroducing this technique that has stood the test of time, and that could involve little added cost to manufacture, could answer both these concerns. In fact, they’re banking on it: Masic and several of his colleagues have created a startup they call DMAT that is currently seeking seed money to begin to commercially produce the Roman-inspired hot-mixed concrete. “It’s very appealing simply because it’s a thousands-of-years-old material.”
Tom T. — What’s the status of your regular appearances on Joan Esposito's WCPT-AM show? I see that you’re no longer promoting it in the “Land of Linkin’.”
I’m taking on some extra tasks and pursuing some other goals this year and wanted to keep my Thursday afternoons free. So I’m now on call with Joan, willing to join her on the air as her schedule and mine permit. We remain on friendly terms. I’m really grateful for the air time and the friendly chats over this last year and half.
Ya gotta see these tweets!
I often run across tweets that rely on visual humor and so can’t be included in the Tweet of the Week contest (the template I use for that poll does not allow me to include images). Here are a few good ones I’ve come across recently:
Vote for your favorite. I’ll share the winner in Thursday’s main edition.
There’s still time to vote in the conventional Tweet of the Week poll!
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Why do any number of sources keep referring to Jesus "Chuy" Garcia and "Chuy" Garcia? If that is a good idea, why not Michael "Mike" Madigan, Edward "Ed" Burke, or "J.B." Pritzker?
The Chicago Reader poll is a joke. It's ridiculous that nominees can "enhance their listing" by paying money to the Reader. If they want the top ballot spot, they should get in line early in the morning like everyone else.
This comment is only partly snark.