Poll: Wu Up Big in Boston Mayoral Race

Michelle Wu now leads fellow At-Large Councilor Annissa Essaibi George by a more than two-to-one margin.

With exactly two weeks to go before voting closes in the Boston mayor’s race, Michelle Wu has opened up a landslide lead over fellow At-Large Councilor Annissa Essaibi George, according to a Suffolk University/Boston Globe/NBC10 Boston poll of very likely November election voters taken October 15-17.

Wu earned the support of 62% of the tightly screened electorate, while Essaibi George received 30%. Just 7% of registered voters who say they intend to vote are undecided at this point.

The winning candidate will make history, becoming the first woman and the first person of color to be elected mayor of Boston, a position previously held only by white men. (Kim Janey, who succeeded Mayor Marty Walsh earlier this year when he left to join the Biden administration, became the first Black person and the first woman to serve as acting mayor.)

“After a convincing preliminary win in September, Michelle Wu is showing no signs of letting up,” said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center. “The wide margin seems to be similar to Mayor Marty Walsh’s lopsided win over Councilor Tito Jackson in 2017.”

For mayor, there are two choices: Michelle Wu and Annissa Essaibi George. If the election for mayor were held today, for whom would you vote or toward whom do you lean at this time?
Suffolk University/Boston Globe/NBC 10 Poll October 19, 2021

Of the 27% of likely voters who watched the Oct. 13 debate between Wu and Essaibi George, 38% thought Wu won, compared to 35% of those polled who ranked Essaibi George as the winner. But a full 50% of viewers said that Essaibi George performed “better than expected,” while only 22% said that Wu had exceeded expectations.

Paleologos pointed out that the biggest remaining block of undecided voters is Hispanics (21%), one of the biggest voter prizes in the preliminary election after Jon Santiago dropped out of the September preliminary election. The second largest block of undecideds is Black voters (15%).

Both schools and housing are tied at 20% for the most important issue, followed by racism (16%), economy/jobs (14%), and crime (10%).

Tight battle for At-Large Councilor seats

In the race for Councilor-at-Large, incumbents Michael Flaherty (30%) and Julia Mejia (29%) are poised to return to the council, while the remaining two open seats are being closely contested by Ruthzee Louijeune (21%), Erin Murphy (18%), David Halbert (16%), and Carla Monteiro (15%).

Rent control supported by majority

A majority of voters (59%) said they support the idea of rent control in Boston, to cap increases and keep rents affordable, while 30% opposed the idea.

Boston-born no longer a must for mayoral candidates

Some coverage of the mayoral race has focused on the fact that Essaibi George was born in Boston and grew up in Dorchester, while Wu grew up in Chicago and moved to the Boston area to attend college and law school. Asked whether or not Boston mayoral candidates should be born and raised locally, most voters did not show a parochial bent: just a third (33%) say they prefer a candidate born and raised in Boston, while 59% say it does not matter, and 4% prefer a candidate not born and raised in Boston because the city would benefit from outside perspectives.

Growing support for shift in police funding

On the issue of police, 56% believe in a strong police force but would like to shift some police funding into mental health and social programs. Nearly 26% said they thought the police needed more funding to protect the community, while 10% would rather defund the police entirely.

Incremental change more popular than bold moves

Voters were split on the type and pace of change they preferred, with 48% saying Boston needs thoughtful, incremental change, while 36% thought the city needs bold, transformational change.

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