How Accurate Are Mayoral Polls?

The latest mayoral polls from Ogden and Fry and the Chicago Tribune show Mayor Emanuel significantly ahead of Garcia, but the race could be closer than it seems

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It looks like Mayor Rahm Emanuel is headed for a victory on April 7, according to the latest poll results at least.

But how much stock should we put in the polls?

Both Ogden and Fry and the Chicago Tribune have conducted regular polls for the mayoral race both before and after the Feb. 24. election. Their results are not the same, but both show that Emanuel has gained a significant lead over Garcia in the past few weeks.

The Chicago Tribune released its latest poll results Tuesday showing Emanuel with 58 percent of voters and Garcia with only 30 percent. Another 9 percent were undecided. In the newspaper's March 6-11 poll, the mayor had 51 percent, while Garcia had 37 percent.

Ogden and Fry's results are slightly more conservative. Their latest numbers, released Sunday, show Emanuel with 47.6 percent of the vote and Garcia with 34.2 percent, factoring in the undecided voters.

The weekly Ogden and Fry polls have shown Emanuel with a significant lead since March 15. The poll immediately before that, however, painted a more bleak picture for the mayor. Emanuel held only 43.5 percent of the vote to Garcia's 38 percent.

More than anything, the polls reflect Emanuel's amped up ad game in the last few weeks. But although the numbers bode well for Emanuel, it does not guarantee him a victory.

Here's why.

Both polls showed Emanuel with a greater lead before the Feb. 24 election than he actually achieved. The mayor's numbers were relatively accurate, but Garcia's supporters came through in the actual election where they didn't in the polls.

The last Chicago Tribune poll before the Feb. 24 election showed Emanuel with 45 percent and Garcia with 20 percent. On Election Day, however, Emanuel gained only one point, but Garcia surged to 34 percent.

Likewise, in the Ogden and Fry poll just before the February election, Emanuel held 48.3 percent of the vote to Garcia's 26.5 percent.

Mike Fourcher, of Aldertrack, also makes a case for Garcia gaining significant ground at the last minute. In an analysis about poll results Tuesday, Fourcher points out Garcia's confidence in his ground game with union members and community groups going door to door and bringing supporters to the polls.

In another strike against the mayor, Fourcher highlights the wealthier demographic of Emanuel's supporters, who are more likely to be out of town for Spring Break on Election Day.

The determining factor for the mayoral race is most likely the early vote. While the polls indicate the success of each candidate's campaign moves, what really matters is who turns up to vote.

Despite the record early voting numbers and trends in recent polls, as Fourcher says, it's probably still too early to call this race.

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