BOSTON Public support in Massachusetts for hosting the 2024 Summer Olympics in the Boston area has edged up slightly from June, a new WBUR poll (topline, crosstabs) of registered voters statewide shows.
But it also shows that support within the Boston area is unchanged from April — our last survey of the region — with opposition slightly higher.
Overall the poll demonstrates little evidence for a clear trend in rising support levels that Olympic organizers say they want to see with a September deadline looming to submit Boston’s bid to compete with Paris, Rome, Hamburg and Budapest to host the 2024 games.
Not ‘A Whole Lot Of Movement’
Statewide, 42 percent of those surveyed said they support hosting the games in the Boston area, with 50 percent opposed. In June, it was 39 percent in favor and 49 percent opposed.
“Statewide support is relatively similar to what we saw in June, perhaps a slight tightening,” said Steve Koczela, with The MassINC Polling Group, which conducted the survey for WBUR.
Within Greater Boston, 40 percent of those surveyed support hosting the Olympics, with 53 percent opposed. A WBUR poll in April showed the same 40 percent support level, with 50 percent opposed.
“It doesn’t seem like there’s a whole lot of movement right now,” Koczela said of public support levels. “But sometimes these small movements are evidence of a beginning of a trend.”
In response to the new numbers, Richard Davey, CEO of the local Olympic organizing group Boston 2024, told WBUR’s Morning Edition Friday that it’s “fair to say that we’ve got some work to do.”
But, he added, “the good news is I think it has moved a bit and we’ve got time to continue to get our message out.”
Opponents of the bid see the survey numbers differently.
“What this poll shows is that despite a big push by Boston’s boosters, Massachusetts voters are still not buying the idea that we need an Olympics,” said Chris Dempsey, of the opposition group No Boston Olympics, in response to the WBUR poll. “This is a risky deal for Massachusetts and one that people here think is just not worth it.”
Boston 2024 and the U.S. Olympic Committee are looking for a “positive trend.” “We obviously want to see a positive trend, and the sooner the better,” USOC Chair Larry Probst said after a board meeting late last month. Probst said the hope was to see public support levels “over 50 percent relatively soon,” but gave no specific deadline.
The New Bid
This latest WBUR poll was conducted statewide, with additional surveying within the Boston area, from July 6-8 — a week after Boston 2024 released its revised plan, or “bid 2.0.”
The plan gave new financial details and spelled out more specifics for the vital Olympic Stadium and Athletes’ Village developments, located at Boston’s Widett Circle and Columbia Point, respectively.
Boston 2024 Chair Steve Pagliuca has previously said people may change their minds about the Olympics when they see the changes and new details.
Statewide, 37 percent of those polled said they followed the news about the revised proposal very or somewhat closely. Another 63 percent said they did not follow the news too closely or at all closely.
In the Boston area, 54 percent said the new bid makes no difference in their inclination to support or oppose a Boston Olympics in 2024.
“So if [Boston 2024 leaders] were hoping that bid 2.0 was going to change a lot of minds, there’s a lot of people who don’t know about it and don’t know it happened,” Koczela said.
However, the poll shows there is room for movement. Forty-four percent of those on both sides said they are open to changing their minds.
“So in the quest to get support levels into the 50s or the 60s, those are the people that proponents will have to target,” Koczela said. “There’s a big chunk of opponents that say they’d be willing to change their mind, that could potentially offer a path to Boston 2024 and Olympic proponents to move the numbers to where they need to be.”
‘Racing Against Time’
But the WBUR poll also highlights some issues that may make it harder for Olympic boosters to win over opponents.
Of those surveyed in the Boston area, 60 percent oppose and 31 percent support a proposal to give tax breaks to developers for preparing the site of the Olympic Stadium and turning it into a new Boston neighborhood after the games. Similarly, 64 percent oppose and 33 percent support traffic lanes reserved exclusively for Olympic athletes, media and officials — something that’s urged by the International Olympic Committee.
While the latest WBUR poll shows there could be a positive trend underway statewide and there is room for Boston 2024 to win over opponents who say they are willing to change their mind, it’s not yet clear whether Boston 2024 will be able to win enough public support in time to influence the USOC ahead of the mid-September deadline to submit a U.S. bid to the International Olympic Committee.
“The problem that Boston 2024 faces is that they’re essentially racing against time,” Koczela said. “So there’s not a lot of time to get the poll numbers up to where the USOC can have confidence that the numbers are headed in the right direction in time for this decision.”
With additional reporting by the WBUR Newsroom