City Councilor-at-large John Connolly (12 percent) led State Representative Martin Walsh (11 percent) in a crowded field of twelve mayoral hopefuls with a significant 40 percent undecided, according to a Suffolk University/Boston Herald poll of tightly screened likely voters in this September’s preliminary election.

Candidates close behind the frontrunners included District Attorney Daniel Conley (9 percent) and District Councilor Rob Consalvo (8 percent). District Councilor Michael Ross and Charlotte Golar Richie tied at 5 percent, followed by Councilor-at-large Felix Arroyo (4 percent); District Councilor Charles Yancey (3 percent); Bill Walczak (2 percent); and John Barros, Charles Clemons Jr. and David Wyatt, all with 1 percent or less.

“Currently the top four candidates are within the poll’s margin of error, and with 40 percent undecided the race is wide open,” said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center in Boston. “Mayor Tom Menino’s shoes will be hard to fill, but the goal of every candidate at this point is to make it to the low twenty percent range in order to qualify as one of the two finalists in September.”

Menino posted mammoth popularity numbers, with 82 percent of respondents indicating a favorable view of him and just 12 percent unfavorable. Still, a majority of likely voters (51 percent) said the next mayor of Boston should have a different style than Menino, who has served as mayor of Boston for twenty consecutive years.

The poll is part of a Boston mayoral race partnership between Suffolk University and the Boston Herald that includes polling, candidate debates, commentary and hands-on involvement for Suffolk students.

“This year's critical mayoral race will define the future for Boston and its neighborhoods,” said Herald Editor-in-Chief Joe Sciacca. “We are excited to partner our campaign-tested reporters and editors with Suffolk University and its faculty and students to provide preeminent coverage, on-the-ground analysis, respected polling and substantive debates.”

Mayor Menino will be leaving a city that voters say feels safe. When likely voters were asked whether they feel safe walking alone in their neighborhood, 82 percent indicated yes and 14 percent said no. Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis got a vote of confidence from voters. When asked if the next mayor should keep Davis as police commissioner 70 percent indicated yes and 6 percent said no.

Public transportation was seen as a high-priority issue related to economic development (57 percent very strongly agreed that it is a high priority and 26 percent agreed strongly while just 14 percent did not feel strongly or felt that public transportation was not an issue at all).

Casino gambling in Massachusetts was supported by 48 percent of likely voters while 43 percent opposed it and by nearly the same margin voters supported the location of a casino in East Boston at the Suffolk Downs racetrack location (49 percent support – 43 percent oppose). This tight margin sharply contrasts with a recent vote a month ago in the city of Everett, just a couple of miles away, to locate a casino there. The vote was 86 percent to 13 percent in favor of building a casino in Everett.

As school issues gain more and more interest, likely voters are strongly supporting an elected school committee rather than the current system of a school committee appointed by the mayor. Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) indicated that school committee members should be elected while only 24 percent said that they should be appointed by the mayor.

Methodology

Using the voter list from the 2012 presidential election and other Boston elections, the Suffolk University poll used a tight screen to filter out voters who weren't likely to vote or who couldn't name the month of the preliminary election for mayor of Boston. All respondents who could not name the month of September were screened out. The field of 600 likely preliminary election voters was conducted Wednesday, July 10 through Monday, July 15. The margin of error is +/- 4 percent at a 95 percent level of confidence for each area. Results are posted on the Suffolk University Political Research Center website: www.suffolk.edu/academics/1093.php. For more information, contact David Paleologos at 781-290-9310, dpaleologos@suffolk.edu.