Support For Boston Olympics Dwindles, WBUR Poll Finds

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Boston Mayor Marty Walsh addresses the first public forum regarding the Boston 2024 Olympics bid on Feb. 5 at Suffolk Law School. (Charles Krupa/AP)
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh addresses the first public forum regarding the Boston 2024 Olympics bid on Feb. 5 at Suffolk Law School. (Charles Krupa/AP)

Opposition to hosting the 2024 Summer Olympics here in Boston is intensifying, with more Boston area residents now against the Olympic bid than for it, according to a new WBUR poll (topline, crosstabs).

The poll shows 44 percent of Boston area residents support the Olympic bid, while 46 percent do not. Opposition has grown by 13 points in the month since our last poll. In the city of Boston alone, opposition has grown by 15 points.

WBUR poll on Boston Olympics bid

That's a big swing, and it coincides with the collapse of the region's transit system, says MassINC pollster Steve Koczela, who conducted the survey for WBUR.

"It has to do with voters now having a new appreciation of how bad the MBTA actually is and seeing the impacts of the storm and thinking there are other priorities in which money would be better spent," Koczela said.

Sheila Connolly was one of the people surveyed in the WBUR poll and she also worries about the daunting cost of the Olympics.

"I oppose it. Especially now with the snow and how crazy the T is," Connolly said. "I can only imagine better things to spend money on in Boston. It's suspect, the whole thing."

Connolly says on her optimistic days she might be more inclined to support the Games if there were promises to fix infrastructure, but deep down she's skeptical.

"I live in South Boston and they want to erect a 60,000-person stadium that would be collapsible after the fact, but it's right outside my door, right outside of my neighborhood," Connolly said. "That does not interest me."

Connolly worries about traffic and crowds. And sure, she says her kids would love to check out the sports, but theoretically they could go see the Olympics in another city.

But for other Bostonians like Karanjah Gordon, of Dorchester, the Games could be a boost for the city. Gordon is originally from Jamaica and would be thrilled to see his favorite sport — track and field — in Boston.

"Definitely the payoffs would be worth it," said Gordon, who was also polled by WBUR. He emphasized the financial benefits. "The revenue is going to be out of this world just by having the Olympics here. And the hotels, motels, anything that can be rented, will be rented, and that's a great amount of revenue."

Polling suggests people of color are more supportive of the bid, but in the total population, Gordon's beliefs are in the minority.

Historically, many other cities vying for the Olympics have had support substantially higher than what we're seeing in Boston. Koczela says the local Olympic group, Boston 2024, has a lot of work to do.

"There's just questions about what people would get out of it," Koczela said. "And if you talk about fixing the T, that's something tangible, that's something, particularly right now, people really can relate to as far as benefiting themselves."

The poll shows an overwhelming number of Boston area residents believe the government needs to be focused on fixing the MBTA, and some of them would theoretically support the Olympics coming to Boston if funds were spent to fix the T.

"If the Olympics were positioned as something which could help the T, then there's some number of people who would be converts," Koczela said.

So instead of weathering the storm, Koczela says, Boston 2024 could use it to their advantage and try to convince people it's the only way to ensure the T gets renovated.

But Koczela says it's unclear if transit woes are the only factor at play or whether they're playing an out-sized role because of the current transit crisis.

The lukewarm Olympic support could also be a result of the fact that people are now finally learning the details behind Boston's bid.

Koczela says we probably won't know for sure what's to blame until the snow melts, the winter blues fade, and the T starts running on schedule.

Methodology: The WBUR poll surveyed 505 registered Boston area voters between Feb. 12 and Feb. 15. The poll has a base sample of 405 residents in the entire area, including Boston, with an additional 100 voters living in the city of Boston. So between the base sample and the oversample, a total of 215 Boston voters were interviewed. The Boston area is defined as communities inside Route 128 or straddling that corridor. The margin of error for the full sample is 4.9 percent and the margin of error for the Boston statistics are 6.7 percent.

This segment aired on February 19, 2015.


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Asma Khalid Reporter
Asma Khalid formerly led WBUR's BostonomiX, a biz/tech team covering the innovation economy.



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