Chicago voters are solidly supporting Rahm Emanuel in his bid for mayor heading into the final weeks before the Feb. 22 election, according to some polls.

One released last week by the Illinois Retail Merchants Association and We Ask America shows Emanuel getting the support of 53 percent of likely voters-more than the minimum 50-percent-plus-one required for him to win the election outright.

The We Ask America poll, along with a Chicago Tribune survey released Jan. 20, show Emanuel’s supporters are far more diverse than expected. More than 56 percent of likely African American respondents say they support Emanuel, nearly double their citywide percentage. The same poll shows 20 percent of blacks plan to vote for Braun.

Around 45 percent of Chicagoans across several recent polls say they’ll vote for Emanuel, 25 percent support Carol Moseley Braun, and another 25 percent is split between the two Latino candidates: Gery Chico and Miguel del Valle. That breakdown closely parallels 2009 census estimates of Chicago’s population at 42 percent white, 34 percent black and 27 percent Hispanic.

In its survey results, released Jan. 20, the Chicago Tribune reported Emanuel receiving support from 44 percent of all respondents, and leading in all ethnic categories with 40 percent of blacks and 30 percent of Hispanics.

These numbers reflect the attitude of Chicagoans who say they don’t want to be boxed into supporting a particular candidate just because he or she shares the candidate’s race. Perry Diggs, 30, has no intention of voting for Braun simply because they are both black.

“My family might vote for the black candidate just to vote for the black candidate, but I don’t think that’s what my ancestors fought for,” Diggs said. “They fought for choice.”

Diggs maintains that he didn’t know for sure who would get his vote on Election Day, but said he plans to do more research into the platforms of Emanuel and Braun. He is leaning, however, toward voting for Chico.

“I like his track record with the schools,” Diggs said.

Elce Redmond, a community organizer with the South Austin Coalition Community Council insisted that the issue of race in the election has been shaped partly by the elevation of a “consensus candidate.”

“The black political elite decided to push their support behind Carol Moseley Braun; that’s why race has become prevalent in this election,” Redmond said. “A lot of folks were really angry about just a few people deciding for the masses without any sort of real grassroots input. They could have held events across the city to debate and discuss it, rather than getting together in a room to decide who would be the African American candidate.”

Tanya Miller, 54, also identifies herself as African American-and she plans to vote for Emanuel.

“I didn’t know who I wanted to vote for, but I changed my mind. I’m starting to like Emanuel,” she said,

Miller added that Emanuel seems to want to help everybody in the city, not just those who look like him. “I don’t vote on a person’s race,” she said.

But Rev. Ira Acree of Greater St. John Bible Church in Austin, said African Americans are voting against their own interests in supporting Emanuel.

“We need someone who’s going to fight for the little guy,” Acree said. “Nobody has made the case that he’s going to do that for them. Many people in our community, when you talk to people in barbershops and cafeterias, have this perception that they are somehow helping Barack [Obama] out…You’ve got to vote for the people who are going to help you.”