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. 

The poll was conducted for the Dorchester Reporter, WBUR , and The Boston Foundation, and has a margin of error of 4.9 percentage points.

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. 

The poll showed her with much higher favorability ratings than Essaibi George, and she drew more support than her rival among every demographic group and area of the city. 

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. 

Meet the Author

Michael Jonas

Executive Editor, CommonWealth

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

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.