Poll sets the plate for a dynamic mayoral contest

Thanks to major funding from The Boston Foundation and from our media partners at WBUR 90.9FM, this week the Dorchester Reporter is pleased to present the results of the year’s first poll focused on the election of Boston’s next mayor. The poll, conducted by the excellent Mass Inc Polling Group, was in the field over four days last week, shortly after Acting Mayor Kim Janey announced that she would seek a full four-year term— making it a six-person field of candidates.

The poll, which surveyed 552 registered voters who are Boston residents on landlines and cell phones in English and Spanish languages— also sought to gauge the electorate’s interest in issues. The poll’s margin of error is +/- 4.9 percent with a 95 percent level of confidence.
So, what did we learn from it?

• For starters, it’s still a wide-open race for the mayor’s office on a full-term basis. Almost half of those polled— 46 percent— said they remain undecided. Michelle Wu and Janey are the strongest at this point— but with so many people still without a preference, there’s plenty of room for movement.

• People generally like this field of candidates, which is not unusual for Bostonians, who generally approve of their political leaders. None of the six candidates has a toxic “favorable-unfavorable” rating. There’s no “lightning rod” candidate and — at this point, at least— the electorate is not polarized along race or neighborhood lines.

• Marty Walsh, now the US Labor Secretary, can look back at his City Hall career knowing that a good majority of his neighbors— 59 percent in this poll— give him a thumbs up. As Mass Inc Polling’s Steve Koczela notes, however, it’s not quite as impressive— at this stage— as former Mayor Tom Menino, who earned a 77 percent favorability rating in a Sept. 2013 poll.

• Covid— and the city’s response— rates as the biggest single issue on voters’ minds, but it is fading a bit. A WGBH poll conducted last September had 39 percent calling it their top issue. That number— amid a widening pool of vaccinated people and signs of a rebounding economy— is now at 27 percent.

• Housing costs ranks second as the biggest issue facing Boston, with a super-majority — 71 percent— saying that the city is unaffordable.

We will have more to report on issues related to housing, education, race, and equity — all addressed in the poll— in next week’s Reporter and online at DotNews.com.

– Bill Forry

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