WBUR Poll: Wu And Janey Lead Boston Mayoral Race, But Almost Half Of Voters Are Undecided

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City Councilor Michelle Wu, left, and acting mayor Kim Janey are currently the front runners in the Boston mayoral race. (Photo of Wu by Jesse Costa/WBUR. Photo of Janey by Elise Amendola/AP)
Acting Mayor Kim Janey said she’s backing Michelle Wu over Annissa Essaibi George in Boston's upcoming mayoral election. (Photo of Wu by Jesse Costa/WBUR. Photo of Janey by Elise Amendola/AP)

Traducido en español por El Planeta Media.

Acting Boston Mayor Kim Janey and City Councilor Michelle Wu are the early leaders in the crowded Boston mayoral race, according to a new WBUR poll (topline, crosstabs).

But almost half of registered voters remain undecided with more than five months left before the preliminary election.

Boston voters also ranked COVID-19 ahead of all other issues, including transit and education.

Doreen Palermo, 57, who was laid off during the height of the pandemic and only recently started working again, is among the 27% of respondents who rated the coronavirus as the biggest issue facing the city right now.

Palermo, who cleans up trash along the Rose Kennedy Greenway part-time, said she trusts Wu to lead the city through challenging times ahead.

"I met her at the train station one day," Palermo said, "and she gave me her picture and everything: 'Vote for me.' Got a lot of confidence in her."

Wu's support stands at 19%. Her one-point edge over Janey is within the survey's margin of error.

With 46% of voters saying they are still undecided, a lot could change before Sept. 21, when the top two finishers in the preliminary contest advance to November's general election.

Sharyce Johnson, 34, is leaning toward Janey, in part because she is excited to see a fellow Black woman leading the city for the first time.

"I think representation matters," Johnson said. "Just seeing yourself in a position of power, seeing yourself in a position of leadership, lets you know it is OK. You can go out for that job, you can go out for that position, you can attain that."

Any other candidate hoping to win Johnson's vote would need a compelling plan to address rising housing costs. That is the most important issue for her, and second for Boston voters, overall — behind only the pandemic.

Janey said in her campaign kickoff last week that she wants more mixed-income development in Boston. Her vision appeals to Jeffrey Navarro, 26, who sees mixed-income housing as a tool to desegregate the city.

"If you live in the projects, and all of your neighbors have low-income jobs, your reality — or view of reality — is limited," he said. "But when you live in a mixed income, now your neighbor is a doctor or a lawyer. Now your aspirations change."

While some voters are thinking hard about policy, others remain unfamiliar with the candidates. Notable contenders, besides the two frontrunners, include City Councilors Andrea Campbell and Annissa Essaibi George, state lawmaker Jon Santiago and former Boston economic development chief John Barros.

None of them has name recognition above 58%.

That's a big obstacle, said Steve Koczela, president of the MassINC Polling Group, which conducted the survey for WBUR, along with the Dorchester Reporter and the Boston Foundation.

"The thing to watch is: Who do voters pay attention to?" he said. "Who do voters get to know? Who sees their name ID start to grow?"

Wu is the best-known candidate, which Kozcela attributes to her being first to enter the race and years of building her profile.

Joel Tillinghast, 62, said his support for Wu is "mostly just name recognition. I got some kind of a flyer dropped off at my house."

Though Tillinghast said he doesn't know much about any of the candidates, he likes what little he does know about Wu. He admires the way she has spoken out against anti-Asian violence in recent weeks, for example.

Then there are voters like George Li. He is not impressed by any of the major candidates, who are all progressive Democrats.

"If there's a Republican runner, I'd probably go that direction to see if that could change the direction the city's going," he said. "You know, harsher punishments, clean up the streets a little bit more."

Li, 52, said he knows his dream of a law-and-order Republican in the Boston mayor's office isn't likely to come true. So, like many voters, he is undecided for now.

This segment aired on April 14, 2021.


Headshot of Callum Borchers

Callum Borchers Reporter
Callum covered the Greater Boston business community for Bostonomix.



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