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Michelle Wu soars ahead in Boston mayoral race, new poll finds

Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu had 30 percent of the support of respondents in a Policy for Progress and MassINC poll on the Boston mayoral race.
Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu had 30 percent of the support of respondents in a Policy for Progress and MassINC poll on the Boston mayoral race.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

City Councilor Michelle Wu has soared ahead in the race for Boston mayor, according to new poll results that show her with twice the level of support of her rivals with just over a week before the Sept. 14 preliminary election.

Wu had 30 percent of the support of respondents in the poll, trailed by Acting Mayor Kim Janey with 15 percent; City Councilor Annissa Essaibi George with 13 percent; and City Councilor Andrea Campbell with 11 percent. John Barros had 4 percent. The poll, conducted from Aug. 25-30, was released Friday morning by the research and action groups Policy for Progress and MassINC, and it is based on the responses of 453 Boston residents, obtained in live telephone interviews, who voted in the 2020 presidential election. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.6 percent, the researcher said.

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As the first public poll to show a candidate reach 30 percent of support in a race with five major candidates, it could give Wu a boost of confidence in the final days of the campaign, a year to this weekend after her run for mayor was first announced.

The results also slow a virtual jump ball for second place between Janey, Essaibi George, and Campbell, who is also riding a wave of momentum. On Thursday, she received the support of the Globe editorial board, which called her the best candidate, a nod that was quickly incorporated into a 30-second TV spot being aired by a super PAC backing Campbell. Super PACs are political committees that can raise and spend unlimited sums, so long as they don’t coordinate with campaigns.

The top two vote-getters in the Sept. 14 preliminary election move on to the Nov. 2 final.

Early voting begins Saturday and runs through Friday, at City Hall and sites scattered across the city, and at different times. For more information about early voting polling locations, visit https://www.boston.gov/news/early-voting-locations-boston-2021-preliminary-municipal-election.

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Residents can also apply to register by mail, and can also drop off mail-in ballots at drop boxes similarly scattered across the city, or at a polling location. In an interview, Secretary of State William Galvin said that more than 40,000 mail-in ballots have already been requested for the city’s preliminary election, and voters still have until Sept. 8 to request one. He suggested that voters who have mail-in ballots should drop them off at a drop box, rather than mail them in using the postal service, to make sure they are received by the city by the Sept. 14 deadline, when ballots must be in by 8 p.m.

Voter turnout could matter, said Steve Koczela, president of MassINC, who noted that Janey would benefit from high voter turnout and place second, while Essaibi George would see more support with a lower voter turnout. The pollster acknowledged that the pool of voters tapped for the survey — those who had voted in the 2020 presidential election — is likely broader than that likely to turn out for a preliminary municipal election, which tends to draw a smaller group of voters who are on average whiter and wealthier than those who show up in a presidential year.

Slicing the survey data down to a those more likely to turn out in a municipal election, Koczela said, shows that Essaibi George would place second with 16 percent of the vote to Wu’s 30 percent.

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And with the heated battle for second place, the poll also found that 19 percent of voters remain undecided.

“There are plenty of undecided voters left to change the outcome,” Koczela said. “That cluster there [for second place] is very tight.”

He added, “The thing is, no one really knows what’s going to happen over the next couple of weeks.”

The poll is the latest to show Essaibi George and Campbell building off of their support and climbing in the final days of the campaign, while Janey has been dropping amid recent criticism of her handling of issues including the city’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Janey’s team has argued that she is the one leading and responsible for tough decisions, and that her opponents are politicizing recent events to their advantage.

An Emerson College/7News poll last week showed Wu with 24 percent of the support of 600 likely Boston voters, followed by Essaibi George with 18 percent, Janey with 16 percent, and Campbell at 14 percent. Barros, the city’s former chief of economic development, drew 2 percent in that poll.

All of the candidates in the MassINC poll were viewed by respondents as more favorable than unfavorable, though to varying degrees.

“When you look at people who like a candidate, they also like another candidate,” Koczela said.


Milton J. Valencia can be reached at milton.valencia@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @miltonvalencia.