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Essaibi-George & Wu Lead Wide-Open Mayoral Race, Voters Divided on Key Issues

A poll conducted by Poll Progressive LLC and the advisory firm Emancipated Group found Boston voters split on whom to support for mayor, and divided on important policy questions regarding police budgets, MBTA fares, and lowering the municipal voting age.

With just over three months to go until the preliminary election to elect the next Mayor of Boston, at-large City Councilors Annissa Essaibi-George and Michelle Wu are leading the race, at 22% and 18%, respectively. Essaibi-George and Wu are closely followed by incumbent Mayor Kim Janey, who is at 16%.

Other declared candidates include District 4 City Councilor Andrea Campbell, who polls at 6%, State Representative Jon Santiago, at 5%, and former chief of economic development for the City of Boston John Barros, at 5%. A plurality (29%) of the electorate is still undecided on which candidate to support at this stage of the race. Subgroups that have larger percentages who are undecided include those over the age of 65 (40%) and African-Americans (35%).

Essaibi-George and Wu do well with voters aged 18-44, with Essaibi-George garnering 23% and Wu capturing 22%. Essaibi-George also does well with those 45-64, getting 29% of their vote compared to Wu, who only gets 12%. Mayor Janey makes up ground with voters aged 65 and older, getting 22% of that vote, compared to Wu (15%) and Essaibi-George (11%).

A near-majority (49%) of likely Boston voters support reducing the Boston Police Department’s budget and diverting those funds to anti-violence programs and social services. Thirty-six percent (36%) of respondents oppose such a plan, while 15% are unsure. Attitudes towards this policy vary starkly between each candidate’s supporters. For example, while 73% of Kim Janey supporters approve of the policy, 81% of Essaibi-George’s voters oppose it. Sixty-one percent (61%) of Black respondents, and 60% of Hispanic ones, support the policy, but whites are divided: 45% oppose and 43% support.

When it comes to MBTA policy, most voters support some form of change in MBTA fare policy but are divided on what that should be. Thirty-six percent (36%) of respondents support reducing fares for the MBTA but not eliminating them, a policy that Essaibi-George, Santiago, and Barros support. One-fifth (20%) of respondents back a complete elimination of fares for both trains and buses, a policy championed by Wu and supported by Janey. Campbell’s policy of eliminating fares for only MBTA buses received support from just 7% of voters. Just over a third of respondents (35%) opposed any of the offered changes to MBTA fare policy.

A majority of respondents (55%) oppose allowing 16 and 17 year olds to vote in municipal elections. About one-third (32%) of respondents support lowering the voting age, while 13% are undecided. This opposition runs through every demographic group, with the sole exception of African Americans who support the measure 47% to 37%.

When asked what issue is most important when deciding for whom to vote for mayor, housing (20%), education (16%), jobs (13%), and taxes (11%) topped the list. Other issues included racial justice (9%), police reform (7%), and the environment (5%). Sixteen percent (16%) of respondents said some other issue was driving their vote. Voters whose top issue is education tended to support Essaibi-George (32%). On the other hand, voters whose most important issue is housing are divided between Janey (25%) and Wu (22%).

Data was collected from May 25-30, 2021 using a mixed-mode of SMS-to-web for cellphones and Interactive-Voice-Response (IVR) for landlines. The sample consisted of n=550 likely voters in Boston and has a margin of error of +/-4.1%. Data was weighted by race, gender, education, and age based off of US Census Reports.

Note: percentage figures may not add up to 100 due to rounding.

Boston Poll 2 Toplines and Crosstabs
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