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Walsh leads Wu in GBH poll on 2021 Boston mayoral race

Mayor Martin J. Walsh.
Mayor Martin J. Walsh.Nicolaus Czarnecki/Pool/BH

Mayor Martin J. Walsh led City Councilor Michelle Wu by 23 points in a hypothetical 2021 mayoral matchup that also included Councilor Andrea Campbell, according to a GBH poll released Thursday.

The poll of registered Boston voters was conducted between Sept. 11 and Sept. 15, and found Walsh, who hasn’t said if he’s running for a third term, led with 46 percent to Wu’s 23 percent and Campbell’s 4 percent.

Wu announced a bid for mayor this week, while Campbell is believed to be considering a run.

Eighteen percent of the 400 people polled by the MassINC Polling Group for GBH were undecided, while 6 percent chose other, unnamed candidates.

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According to the GBH survey, 85 percent of respondents approved of Walsh’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis, which was identified by 39 percent of respondents as the biggest issue facing the city.

Among those polled, 12 percent viewed housing costs as the biggest issue facing the city, 8 percent said the economy and jobs, 6 percent said crime and public safety, 5 percent said public education, 4 percent said homelessness, and 4 percent said race relations.

Sixty-nine percent of those polled said they had a generally favorable view of Walsh, while only 22 percent had a generally unfavorable view of the mayor. Wu was much less well known: Just under half of respondents had a favorable view of her, 16 percent had an unfavorable view, and 35 percent were undecided or hadn’t heard of the councilor who was first elected in 2013.

Walsh enjoyed high support among the 88 Black respondents to the poll, 81 percent of whom had a favorable view of the mayor, while 12 percent had an unfavorable view. Four percent had never heard of him. Among the same cohort of residents, Wu had a 47 percent favorable rating, 10 percent unfavorable rating, while 25 percent had never heard of her.

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“Both Marty Walsh and Michelle Wu are well-liked, according to the poll results,” said Steve Koczela, president of the MassINC Polling Group, in a statement. “Mayor Walsh has enjoyed high levels of support throughout his time in office, and that has not changed. But there is a long way to go in this contest, and the coalitions have yet to clearly form.”

Wu, a 35-year-old Roslindale resident known as a progressive stalwart on the council, topped the at-large City Council field during the last two elections. She announced Tuesday she is running for mayor. Walsh, a 53-year-old Dorchester native, has declined to answer questions about whether he would seek a third term in recent weeks.

Campaigning along the East Boston waterfront on Thursday, Wu deflected questions about the poll, saying she was focused on hearing from local residents, advocates, and business owners about the needs of the city.

“I’m running for mayor to make sure every community’s voices are heard, so the focus is lifting up the stories that are in the neighborhoods,” she said.

Walsh declined to comment on the poll on Thursday. In recent days, he has punted on questions regarding a potential matchup against Wu, saying he is focused on the tasks at hand: the city’s pandemic response, the reopening of the city’s schools, and helping Joe Biden take the White House.

Joyce Ferriabough Bolling, a Roxbury resident and political strategist, said she thought the poll was premature, given that Walsh hasn’t announced his intentions. She added that Walsh’s COVID-19 response has helped communities of color in the city and that his support among Black poll respondents “tells me what I already know.”

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“Everybody is over the moon on how he’s handling the pandemic,” she said.

Wu, she said, has to make her case for running. Voters, said Ferriabough Bolling, want to see how things are going to be different.

“She criticizes a lot,” she said. “I just want to see her plan.”

Erin O’Brien, a political science professor at University of Massachusetts Boston, thought the poll results were unsurprising.

“He’s a popular, Democratic mayor in the city of Boston and he gets good marks on COVID,” said O’Brien.

She added, “It’s not disparaging Michelle Wu, it’s just that Marty Walsh is the current mayor.”

The poll was conducted by live telephone interviews via both landline and cellphone and carried a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percent.

Correction: Due to a reporting error, a previous version of this story misidentified Michelle Wu’s title as City Council president. She is a city councilor, but does not currently serve as president of the body.




John R. Ellement can be reached at john.ellement@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe. Danny McDonald can be reached at daniel.mcdonald@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Danny__McDonald.