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WBUR Poll: Walsh Has Big Lead Over Jackson; Housing Is Voters' Top Concern04:25Download

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City Councilor Tito Jackson, left, and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh (Jesse Costa/WBUR)MoreCloseclosemore
City Councilor Tito Jackson, left, and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

A month before Boston's mayoral election, a WBUR poll finds incumbent Marty Walsh has a commanding lead over his challenger, City Councilor Tito Jackson.

In the live telephone survey (topline results, crosstabs) of 405 likely voters, Walsh out-polls Jackson, 60 percent to 24 percent.

The survey also finds that the cost of housing is the top issue for Boston voters.

"The cost of housing is something that affects everyone,” said Steve Koczela, president of the MassINC Polling Group, which conducted the WBUR survey.

Koczela points out that Boston has some of the highest housing costs in the nation.

"You see very low rental vacancy rates," he said. "You see sky-high rents and houses that sell almost the second they're listed, so it's not hard to understand why the cost of housing is the No. 1 issue."

Campaigning in Roxbury recently, Jackson said the housing issue is among the top reasons he's for running for mayor.

"On South Huntington Ave., which is right around the corner from here, it costs $2,200 for a studio, $3,200 for a two-bedroom [apartment] and $4,200 for a three-bedroom,” Jackson said. “What family can afford $4,200?"

Jackson proposes a number of policies, including abolishing the Boston Planning and Development Agency and expanding the stock of affordable housing, which is why Maria Christina Blanco of Jamaica Plain supports him.

"I'm really fortunate to live in deed-restricted affordable housing. That changed my life,” Blanco said. “I think everyone should have that right, and we don't have a high enough percentage of affordable housing."

For his part, Walsh argues that he is working hard to increase Boston’s affordable housing stock. The Walsh administration has sped up the permitting process, and according to the city, in the last three years, more than 13,000 new housing units have been built, many of them for low- and middle-income residents.

"We set a record in Boston in 2014, then [a record] in '15, one in '16 and probably one in '17 building low-income units,” Walsh told WBUR recently. “But we also have 30,000 new residents living in the city of Boston, so as quickly as we're building [new housing], people are coming into Boston. So we are building more low-income units than ever before."

Even so, 76 percent of Boston voters are either very dissatisfied or somewhat dissatisfied with the cost of housing, according to the WBUR poll.

(The MassINC Polling Group)
(The MassINC Polling Group)

Close to the same number of people have big concerns about gun violence in the city, which has seen a spike in shootings this year. Next on the list of complaints are Boston's congested streets, gang activity, overall crime and the state of race relations in the city.

But even with more than half of voters expressing dissatisfaction on all these issues, the poll finds that Walsh remains very popular — 68 percent view him favorably.

"A booming economy will paper over a lot of dissatisfaction, and I think that's what you see going on here,” Kozcela said.

According to the poll, 60 percent of Boston voters are very satisfied or somewhat satisfied with the availability of jobs in the city. So despite some high-profile missteps, like his failed effort to bring the Olympics and IndyCar racing to Boston, Walsh remains popular with lots of voters.

"I love Marty Walsh, and I've been with him from the very beginning,” said Cassy Martorana of East Boston, who voted for the mayor in last Tuesday’s preliminary election.

Martorana gives Walsh high marks overall, even though she is frustrated by what she sees as runaway development in her neighborhood.

"There are too many buildings going up in every nook and cranny — we're way overcrowded,” Martorana said. “[There is] too much congestion. I got a guy behind me who just built nine units four stories high. It's just too much!'

But Martorana says she plans to stick with Walsh, whose approval numbers rival those of his predecessor, Tom Menino, according to pollster Koczela.

That represents a big challenge for Jackson -- even though the WBUR poll found that lots of voters have a positive view of the city councilor. Said Koczela: “50 percent view Jackson favorably and only 9 percent unfavorably."

In other words, very few people dislike Jackson, but at this point, they just don't see a reason to replace Walsh.

The live telephone survey was conducted Sept. 27 to Oct. 1. It has a margin of error of 4.9 percentage points. 

Correction: An earlier version of this story said 1,300 housing units have been built in Boston in the last three years. It is 13,000. We regret the error.  

This segment aired on October 4, 2017.

Related:

Anthony Brooks Twitter Senior Political Reporter
Anthony Brooks is WBUR's senior political reporter.

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