Chicago, you talked – and we listened.
There are nine candidates running to be mayor in Chicago’s city elections on Feb. 28th. With such a big field, it can be difficult to figure out where each of them stands on issues that matter the most to you.
So WBEZ worked with the Chicago Sun-Times and the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics to launch the People’s Agenda. We asked Chicagoans what mayoral candidates should be talking about this election season and for questions they’d want to ask the next mayor. We’re using that input to shape our city election coverage with digital tools, candidate forums and more.
So far you’ve given us more than 1,800 responses! Our survey was not scientific, but we made a deliberate effort to hear from people all over the city.
Here’s a topline analysis of what you told us as of Jan. 27, and what our journalists plan to do with your input. (And if you’ve still got ideas to share or questions to submit, you’re not too late.)
If you want to see the candidates – all nine of them – answer the public’s questions in-person, register to attend our Reset candidate forums at the University of Illinois at Chicago Feb. 8 and at the University of Chicago Feb. 9th! You can also listen on the radio at 11 a.m.
What were the top issues? Crime, the CTA, economic development
Far and away, the issue that most respondents said candidates should be talking about was crime and public safety. More than half of all People’s Agenda survey responses — 54 percent — 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 get a handle on carjacking, police staffing and police wellness.
Here’s an overview of the other top issues and questions Chicagoans raised. (Note that most responses addressed multiple issues, so the numbers won’t add up to 100%.)
If you’re sick of CTA delays, dirty El trains and “ghost buses,” you’re not alone. Nearly one third of respondents — 30% — raised transportation as a top issue. Outside of crime, making the CTA safer, cleaner and more reliable was the most-raised topic in the survey. More than 200 people also wanted to hear mayoral candidates talk about plans for more bike lanes and pedestrian-friendly streets.
More than a quarter of responses — more than 450 — said they wanted to hear mayoral candidates’ plans relating to economic development. Top issues in this category related to disinvestment and reinvestment in Chicago’s neighborhoods, improving the business climate, making the city more equitable, and revitalizing downtown in the wake of COVID-19.
One in four responses concerned education and kids, with lots of people wanting to hear how the next mayor would make the education more equitable – and properly funded – for Chicago Public Schools students all over the city. People also wondered how the next mayor would navigate City Hall’s relationship with the Chicago Teachers Union, following more than a decade of on-and-off conflict and strikes.
Rounding out the top five issues was housing — something more than 23 percent of responses addressed. Creating more affordable housing — especially in gentrifying neighborhoods — was a top 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 candidates’ stances on the proposed Bring Chicago Home ordinance.
What happens next?
The goal of engagement journalism projects like this is to give you actionable, practical information — in this case, elevate your voices in our city election coverage and to help you decide how you’ll vote on Feb. 28th. To that end, journalists at WBEZ and the Chicago Sun-Times are creating several things based on your survey input.
We’re publishing mayoral candidates’ responses to a questionnaire which raised a lot of the same important issues seen in the People’s Agenda survey. We asked the mayoral candidates 23 yes-or-no questions and put together a digital guide so you can see clearly where they stand. Check it out in English or in Spanish. You can also take a quiz to see with which candidates your views are most aligned.
On Feb. 8 and 9, WBEZ’s midday talk show Reset will be hosting forums with all the mayoral candidates. That’s where we’ll pose many of the questions you asked in our People’s Agenda survey directly to the candidates. You can listen on both days at 11 a.m. CT, or you can register to attend the broadcasts in-person at the University of Illinois at Chicago or the University of Chicago.
We’ll also be putting together a short-run newsletter based on the top issues you raised in our survey, starting in February.
The Chicago Sun-Times editorial board is also planning a series of editorials based on the issues most raised in the People’s Agenda.
Who took the People’s Agenda survey?
WBEZ, the Sun-Times and the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics disseminated the survey online, on the radio, in print and on social media. WBEZ’s Community Engagement Team and UChicago students also did in-person outreach across Chicago to hear directly from the public. Outreach partners — neighborhood organizations, community groups and nonprofits — helped disseminate the survey through their channels, too.
As of Jan. 27, the survey received 1,735 responses from 210 ZIP codes. About half — nearly 52% — came from people who identified as white, 22% who didn’t disclose their race/ethnicity, 11% who identified as Black, about 9% who identified as Hispanic/Latino/Latinx, 3.5% as Asian, 2% as another race, and less than 1% as Native American or Pacific Islander. Forty-five percent of respondents said they were under the age of 35, and about 21% said they were older than 65.
Alex Keefe is WBEZ’s Engagement Editor. You can email him about this project at email@example.com.