Wu holds wide lead over Essaibi George in race for Boston mayor, WBUR poll shows

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Boston City Councilors Michelle Wu, left, and Annissa Essaibi George, right, on the day of Boston's preliminary election. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Boston City Councilors Michelle Wu, left, and Annissa Essaibi George, right, on the day of Boston's preliminary election. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu has a commanding lead over fellow Councilor Annissa Essaibi George in the race to be the city's next mayor, according to a new poll from WBUR. The survey found Wu leads Essaibi George by 32 points with election day less than three weeks away.

The poll (toplines/crosstabs) is the latest evidence that Michelle Wu's mayoral campaign is firing on all cylinders. She was the top vote getter in Boston's preliminary election last month; since then, she has racked up significant endorsements, including nods from Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley and Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey.

Now the poll of 500 likely voters shows her leading Essaibi George by a wide margin — 57% to 25%. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.

"She's earned support from across Boston," said Steve Koczela, president of the MassINC Polling Group, which conducted the poll for WBUR, the Dorchester Reporter and the Boston Foundation.

"She's got a wide lead among white voters, Black voters, Latino and Asian voters. She does very well among the many demographic groups that make up the city of Boston," Koczela said.

According to the poll, 19% of likely voters are still making up their minds. But it found that Wu is viewed favorably by 61% of Bostonians, compared to just 37% for Essaibi George. The poll found that more respondents viewed Wu favorably than Charlie Baker, the state's popular governor.

Wu’s agenda includes universal pre-K education, affordable child care and free public transportation. That appeals to voters like Travis Marshall of Roslindale, who said he supports Wu because he believes she's committed to improving schools — a top priority for Boston voters, according to the poll. And he likes Wu's stance on public transportation.

"Like free mass transit on the 28 bus — that was a germ in Michelle Wu's mind," Marshal said. "She's been talking about it for eight years. There's a vision there."

"I like her ideas, I like the urgency she brings to the table," said Judy Terranova, who lives in the West End, close to Beacon Hill. Terranova is particularly impressed with Wu's Green New Deal, a plan designed both to protect the environment and attack economic issues like poverty and the racial wealth gap.

"Because a lot of people really don't seem to care or pay attention to the fact that the city is going to be under water in a couple of decades," she said.

Terranova said she voted for City Councilor Andrea Campbell in the preliminary election but is happy to support Wu on Nov. 2. The WBUR poll found that most voters who supported Campbell or acting Mayor Kim Janey have shifted toward Wu.

According to the WBUR poll, controlling housing costs was the top priority among supporters of Wu (83%), followed by improving Boston public schools (82%). The top issue among supporters of Essaibi George was improving schools (81%), followed by cracking down on crime (74%).

In the preliminary election, Essaibi George drew much of her support from white working class neighborhoods, including parts of South Boston and Dorchester, where she grew up and lives. She's focusing her campaign on improving schools, public safety and a promise to "do the work," a message that appeals to voters like Marian O'Malley of Dorchester.

"[I appreciate] the things that she's done for the city at large — from homelessness to addiction to affordable housing," O'Malley said. "The fact that she's a teacher and a mother of four really impresses me — the fact that she can do all these wonderful things."

Essaibi George also has the support of Matthew Malloy of Dorchester, who calls Wu's ambitious progressive agenda "pie in the sky." Malloy, a big supporter of former Mayor Marty Walsh, believes that Essaibi George will continue his policies.

"I also agree with her about police reform in the city of Boston," Malloy said. "We'd rather have more police than less police."

The WBUR poll found that supporters of Essaibi George are generally older, whiter, more male and more conservative than Wu's supporters.

"That's not a losing coalition necessarily in past decades," Koczela said. "But Boston is different now. Michelle Wu's campaign has capitalized on that."

Indeed, Wu is counting on support from a city now defined by a growing population of younger voters, Asians and Latinos.

But WBUR's poll found Wu is leading even among white and older voters. All that appears to give her the inside track to the mayor's office.

This segment aired on October 13, 2021.


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



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