Poll shows big lead for Wu in Boston mayor’s race
With debate tonight, Essaibi George faces pressure to shift the momentum
SHE MAY BE the “teachah” and the “muthah” to take on the problems facing Boston, but Annissa Essaibi George faces a steep uphill climb to become the “mayah” if the first poll taken during the final election campaign is on the mark.
The survey, conducted by the MassINC Polling Group, shows Michelle Wu with a whopping 32-point lead over Essaibi George among likely voters with three weeks to go before the November 2 election. Among the 501 voters polled, 57 percent said they were backing Wu and 25 percent supported Essaibi George; those numbers included those also leaning toward a candidate but not sure of their vote. Among those with a clear preference, Wu’s lead is 30 points, 52-22, with 25 percent undecided.
Wu, who made a strong first-place showing in the September preliminary election, finishing 11 points ahead of Essaibi George, has been widely seen as the frontrunner in the race.
On issues, improving the Boston schools is a top concern for supporters of both candidates, with more than 80 percent of Wu and Essaibi George backers calling it a “majority priority.”
Differences emerge on other issues, with Wu voters much more likely to call controlling housing costs a major priority (83 percent versus 54 percent of Essaibi George supporters). More Wu supporters also cited public transportation, an issue she has highlighted, as a priority (76 percent versus 57 percent). Meanwhile, more Essaibi George supporters cite getting tough on crime as a major priority (74 percent versus 51 percent). Essaibi George has been more outspoken on public safety and has called for hiring 200 to 300 additional police officers.
There has been lots of attention paid to the question of who will win the support of voters who backed three Black candidates in the preliminary election. Black and brown voters “are going to decide this race,” John Connolly, a finalist in the 2013 mayoral contest, said this week on The Codcast.
Among those surveyed in the new poll who voted for Andrea Campbell and Kim Janey, the two Black women in the preliminary, who finished third and fourth, Wu is now the clear preference. But she scores much higher with Campbell voters, 81 percent of whom say they now support Wu, than with Janey voters, 50 percent of whom now back Wu. Essaibi George is the choice of 10 percent of Campbell voters and 23 percent of Janey voters. The pattern raises questions about the value of endorsements, since Janey announced her support for Wu soon after the preliminary election, while Campbell has yet to make an endorsement in the final election.
Essaibi George is now the clear choice among those who voted for John Barros, the third Black candidate in the preliminary, but he finished a distant fifth with only 3 percent of the vote. Among Barros voters, 66 percent now say they support Essaibi George and 29 percent are backing Wu. Barros served as chief of economic development under former mayor Marty Walsh, a political ally of Essaibi George’s.The poll results only add to the pressure facing Essaibi George going into tonight’s televised mayoral debate. She is likely to look for ways to shake up the race and give voters doubts about a Wu administration in City Hall.
For Wu, the task looks very different. “The person in the front just wants to get through the debate unscathed,” Erin O’Brien, a political science professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston, told the Globe.