Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) has a major trust problem.
More than two months after the graphic dashcam video of a Chicago police officer shooting and killing a black 17-year-old was released, a new Chicago Tribune poll found a whopping 83 percent of Chicagoans don't believe their mayor is telling them the truth about what he knew and when.
The police officer involved in the October 2014 shooting has been charged with murder. Emanuel fired his police commissioner and apologized. All the while, Emanuel has put distance between himself and those involved in the Laquan McDonald shooting. He said he realized the gravity of it six months after it happened. He said he didn't see the video until a judge ordered the city to release it, and he didn't know police reports contradicted what was in the video until those were released publicly.
In essence, the mayor has maintained that he found out just how horrible the shooting was at about the same time the rest of his city did. And even though he's had months to explain why and how that's been the case, Chicagoans aren't buying it.
Some more numbers from the Chicago Tribune poll that highlight Emanuel's troubles:
- 68 percent say he was not justified in withholding the dashcam video of the shooting. By way of background, Emanuel's law department had requested the video after the shooting and fought to not release it, citing ongoing investigations. In November, a county judge ruled the video wouldn't jeopardize any investigations and should be made public. Hours after the video was released, Officer Jason Van Dyke was charged with murder. The timing has some accusing Emanuel of a cover-up -- a charge the mayor has denied.
- 59 percent of Chicagoans say Emanuel is not honest and trustworthy.
- A record 63 percent of Chicagoans disapprove of the job he's doing as mayor.
- A record-low 27 percent approve of the job Emanuel is doing as mayor overall, down from his previous record-low 35 percent approval rating as Emanuel was gearing up for reelection in 2014. (As the Chicago Tribune's Rick Pearson and Bill Ruthhart explain, Emanuel spent millions of dollars rehabilitating his image then, and with a 52 percent approval rating won a runoff against a county commissioner.)
- Emanuel won reelection in part in thanks to support from the city's African American communities. Now, 75 percent of black voters think the mayor can't relate to them.
- Of the 27 percent who approve of the job Emanuel's doing, 40 percent say the city's withholding of the shooting video was not justified, and 47 percent say they don't believe the mayor's version of events related to the shooting.
- Finally, 41 percent want Emanuel to resign, including half of black and Latino voters. That's different from the 51 percent of all Chicagoans who told the Illinois Observer in December they wanted him to resign.
To sum up, a large majority of Chicagoans don't trust Emanuel's version of events, don't appreciate how he handled the shooting and don't think he's doing a good job running the city. But a bare majority of them don't think he should resign.
The mayor's office has said that the uproar over the McDonald shooting is rooted in larger frustrations over the police department -- problems that happened long before Emanuel came to office in 2011.
"As a city, we have come face-to-face with a generations-old problem," a spokesman told The Fix in an email. "The mayor has made it clear that ultimately he will be judged in the months and years ahead by how we address this challenge and the reforms we make."
But Emanuel's handling of the situation this winter hasn't done much to boost Chicagoans' faith in him. Emanuel has promised to do all he can to hold those responsible accountable and improve Chicago Police Department's systemic problems, but we wrote in December that before arriving at those decisions, he often appeared defensive at every turn.
"It's increasingly difficult to envision a scenario in which whatever Emanuel does isn't viewed as a political Hail Mary to save his career by understandably frustrated and suspicious Chicago residents," we wrote then.
These latest poll numbers suggest that hasn't changed -- and in fact may have gotten worse. Perhaps the number that best encompasses the struggle Emanuel's facing to repair his reputation: Just 13 percent of voters believe Chicago is better off under him.
Emanuel's trust reservoir is thinning, and with numbers like these, it'll be a miracle if he ever regains it.