Poll: Voters sour on Preckwinkle over sweetened beverage tax

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Just two years ago, Toni Preckwinkle was so popular supporters urged her to run for mayor of Chicago.

But a new poll suggests the South Side Democrat now might have serious trouble even getting re-elected Cook County Board president — thanks to the county’s controversial tax on sweetened beverages.

More than two-thirds of voters give her job performance the thumbs down, and three out of four say they would not vote to re-elect her, according to the automated survey.

The poll, released Thursday by We Ask America, reports that 68 percent of voters in Cook County disapprove of Preckwinkle’s job performance. Only 21 percent approve, and 11 percent were undecided. The survey’s margin of error was plus or minus 3.26 percentage points. It was conducted by phone Tuesday and Wednesday.

The numbers were released two weeks after the county began charging an extra penny-per-ounce for sugar and artificially sweetened beverages, which includes everything from sodas to sweetened iced teas.

According to We Ask America, 75 percent of the poll’s 902 respondents said they likely would not vote to re-elect Preckwinkle as Board president. An overwhelming 84 percent of those polled said Preckwinkle’s “deciding vote that created the Cook County beverage tax” made them less likely to vote for her.

A representative for Preckwinkle could not be reached Thursday afternoon.

In a statement to the Crain’s Chicago Business, Preckwinkle aide Scott Kastrup said: “President Preckwinkle is solely focused on navigating the county through tough economic circumstances and leading on behalf of the people of Cook County. Her strong record of reforming county government, improving access to healthcare, protecting public safety services and standing up to special interests are why she has broad support across the county and why she’s in strong position to win-re-election next year.”

Distaste with Preckwinkle’s performance was not bounded by race. Black, white, Hispanic and Asian respondents’ disapproval all ranged between 65 and 81 percent, the poll stated. Just over two-thirds of both Chicago and suburban Cook County residents disapproved of Preckwinkle.

Gregg Durham, a spokesman for We Ask America, said the poll was not commissioned by any organization, and his organization had no prior approval numbers for Preckwinkle to compare to those released Thursday.

Even with no figures to compare, Durham said, “These numbers are really bad.”

“If I were thinking of running against her, this poll would be very encouraging.”

The poll did not pit Preckwinkle against any potential challengers. As of Thursday, no one had officially declared to run against her in .

Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin, though, told the Chicago Sun-Times last week that he is “taking a serious look” at challenging Preckwinkle in next year’s election.

The first-term commissioner said Preckwinkle’s handling of the sweetened beverage tax and the ensuing backlash prompted him to consider running.

“It was a bad tax from its inception. We ought to repeal it right away,” he said. “It was a vindictive action carried out on the taxpayers’ credit card. It was as if she was the queen and she made an edict. It borders on abuse of power.”

The beverage tax has been the subject of extensive litigation in the last month. Tuesday, five Republican members of the Illinois House of Representatives introduced a bill that would prevent any home rule county from imposing a tax on sweetened beverages based on volume sold. The bill applies to any county ordinance adopted on or before the effective date of the bill, which would repeal the existing Cook County ordinance.


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