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New poll shows Wu ahead in tight Boston mayoral race, followed by Essaibi George

Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu garnered 24 percent of support in the new poll, but still a quarter of those responding said they were undecided.Matthew J. Lee/Globe staff

With mayoral candidates barreling down the home stretch of the preliminary contest, City Councilor Michelle Wu is leading the field, with the other three women in the race — Councilor Annissa Essaibi George, Acting Mayor Kim Janey, and Councilor Andrea Campbell — bunched together at her heels in what appears to be a battle for second place, according to a new poll.

The Emerson College/7News poll was released Thursday night, less than three weeks before the Sept. 14 preliminary, and showed Wu with 24 percent support. The poll of 600 likely Boston voters found Essaibi George with 18 percent support, closely followed by Janey with 16 percent, and Campbell at 14 percent. John Barros, a former economic development chief for the city, drew just 2 percent.

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A quarter of likely voters are still undecided, according to the poll, which has a margin of error of 3.9 percentage points.

The results add some clarity to a crowded and historic race that has continued to be murky, in part because of a relative lack of public polling this election season. Thursday’s poll showed Wu enjoys strong support among “somewhat likely voters,” with 35 percent of people who identify as such planning to back her.

But among “very likely voters,” the contest appears much closer. In that cohort, 22 percent said they plan to vote for Wu, 21 percent support Essaibi George, 17 percent Janey, and 15 percent Campbell.

A June poll conducted by Suffolk University and The Boston Globe showed Wu and Janey pulling ahead of the rest of the pack and Essaibi George in a second tier with Campbell. Thursday’s poll suggests Essaibi George may have since leap-frogged Janey in support among Boston voters.

According to the new poll, Black Bostonians are backing the two Black women in the race at higher rates than the other contenders, with Janey garnering 31 percent support and Campbell 24 percent with this group.

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The poll showed Essaibi George and Wu, meanwhile, with the same support — 24 percent — from white voters. For the city’s Hispanic voters, 23 percent favor Wu, 20 percent support Janey, and 19 percent are backing Essaibi George, according to the survey. Wu, the daughter of Taiwanese immigrants, has a dominant lead with Asian voters in the city, with 73 percent of these voters saying they plan to cast ballots for her.

The poll also showed that voters under 30 prefer Wu, while voters over the age of 65 prefer Janey. Those between 30 and 44 years old liked both Wu — 32 percent — and Essaibi George — 29 percent. Voters in the 45-to-64 range were fairly evenly divided in their support among the four women candidates in the race.

Housing was the top issue when considering a candidate for 19 percent of voters, while 16 percent ranked education as their top issue, 13 percent said “something else,” 12 percent listed crime, and 10 percent said health care.

Of the five major candidates, the top two vote-getters from the Sept. 14 preliminary will advance to the Nov. 2 general election. Whoever wins the general becomes the next mayor of Boston.

Whatever happens, history is pretty much guaranteed. For the first time, Boston, barring anything unforeseen, will elect a mayor who is not a white man. This year’s race was cracked wide open when Martin J. Walsh, the incumbent mayor who was planning to run for a third term, was tapped to be President Biden’s labor secretary. Janey became acting mayor once Walsh left City Hall. The entirety of the race has played out amid the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic.

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Regarding the pandemic, 71 percent of Boston voters thought that large venues like concert halls and sports stadiums should require proof-of-vaccination. More than 60 percent thought shops, restaurants, and offices should require proof-of-vaccination, according to the poll. While Janey has instituted some significant moves to combat COVID-19 pandemic in recent weeks, including an indoor mask mandate that goes into effect on Friday, she has so far declined to institute proof-of-vaccination requirements for public spaces and venues.

A majority of Boston voters — 56 percent — said they were very concerned about the threat of the Delta variant of COVID-19, while 30 percent said they were somewhat concerned.

The poll was conducted Aug. 23-24 and surveyed 600 likely voters through texting to mobile phones, robo-polling to landlines, and an online panel of people who opted in to be polled on various issues.




Danny McDonald can be reached at daniel.mcdonald@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Danny__McDonald.