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Poll: Boston Mayoral Election

City Voters Also Weigh In on Crime, Schools, Transportation


Contacts:  Christine Gillette, 978-934-2209 (w), 978-758-4664 (c) or
                  Nancy Cicco, 978-934-4944 or

LOWELL, Mass. – City Councilor John Connolly has the edge – 8 percentage points – over former state Rep. Marty Walsh among likely voters in the race to be the next mayor of Boston, according to a new poll released today by the UMass Lowell Center for Public Opinion.

Forty-five percent of likely voters favor Connolly while 37 percent prefer Walsh, according to the independent, nonpartisan poll, which was conducted between Wednesday, Oct. 2 and Monday, Oct. 7 and surveyed 605 Boston registered voters on behalf of the UMass Lowell Center for Public Opinion. Prof. Joshua Dyck, the center’s co-director, wrote and analyzed the poll. The margin of error is plus or minus 5 percentage points for registered voters and plus or minus 6 percentage points for likely voters. 

With less than a month to go before the Nov. 5 election, 18 percent of likely voters polled said they are undecided and four in 10 likely voters who expressed support for a candidate said they could still change their mind. Forty-two percent who said they support Walsh and 39 percent who prefer Connolly said their choice is not firm. 

“With nearly a quarter of likely voters still undecided, endorsements by candidates who were unsuccessful in the preliminary election can have an impact on the final outcome,” said Frank Talty, co-director of the Center for Public Opinion and assistant dean of UMass Lowell’s College of Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. “For example, before the recent endorsement of Marty Walsh by Felix Arroyo and John Barros, 43 percent of Latino voters were undecided. Likewise, an endorsement by Charlotte Golar Richie may well influence the 23 percent of African-American voters who reported they are still undecided.”

Connolly’s advantage over Walsh is bolstered by support from women, voters with college degrees and those who are between the ages of 40 and 64, according to the poll. Connolly leads Walsh by 10 points among women (40 to 30 percent) but trails by 3 percentage points among men (36 to 39 percent). Among women ages 50 to 64, Connolly is ahead of Walsh by 25 points (50 to 25 percent), while Connolly is up 14 points with voters ages 40 to 49 and 9 points for those from age 50 to 64. Support for Walsh and Connolly was evenly split among voters in the 18 to 29, 30 to 39 and 65 and older age groups. Registered voters with a college degree prefer Connolly by 14 points (43 percent to 29 percent for Walsh) while those with a high school education or less prefer Walsh by 5 points (37 to 32 percent). 

Walsh, a former union laborer who has been an advocate for organized labor, leads 49 to 31 percent among those polled who either are or live in the same household as a member of a union. Seventeen percent of those polled identified themselves as being from union households, while 83 percent were from non-union households. Among non-union households, Walsh trails Connolly by 10 points (30 to 40 percent).

The poll also asked registered voters to give their opinions on Boston Public Schools, public transportation and the city’s crime rate. Sixty-nine percent of registered voters said that crime is a problem in the city and among those voters, Connolly has the support of 38 percent compared to 32 percent for Walsh. Among voters who do not consider crime a problem, 41 percent support Walsh and 37 percent prefer Connolly.

Fifty-three percent of registered voters gave the MBTA a grade of A or B and 37 percent of registered voters who ride public transportation said they would be willing to pay $3 or more for one-way, late-night service on the T.

Thirty-five percent of registered voters gave Boston Public Schools a grade of A or B, 32 percent gave them a C and 20 percent gave them a D or F (another 13 percent said they “don’t know”). Connolly, whose campaign platform includes education reform, leads Walsh among registered voters who gave the schools a grade of A or B (5 percentage points) and D or F (8 points). Sixty-three percent said it is more important for the next mayor to invest in public schools instead of alternative forms of education, such as charter schools.

“Connolly’s message of education reform seems to be working at a general level, but it is also not clear that voters completely understand all the facets of his proposal,” said Dyck, an associate professor of political science at UMass Lowell.

Thirty-seven percent of registered voters said that Walsh and Connolly were their preferred candidates in the Sept. 25 preliminary election, while 46 percent said their first choice was one of the other 10 candidates. Of those, 36 percent now support Connolly and 34 percent prefer Walsh, while 28 percent are undecided.

As Tom Menino winds down his two decades as mayor, a majority of registered voters – 72 percent – say the city is on the right track. Menino will speak about his experiences at UMass Lowell on Monday, Oct. 21 as part of the university’s Lunchtime Lecture Series. 

While voters feel the city and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts – 68 percent of those polled – are headed in the right direction, only 24 percent feel the nation is.

Other findings from the poll include:
  • Connolly has challenged Walsh to sign “the people’s pledge” to keep outside money out of the campaign. Thirty-two percent of registered voters polled said they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who signed the pledge, compared to 61 percent who said it does not matter. Connolly leads Walsh 45 to 29 percent among those who said the pledge is important. Among those voters who did not support either candidate in the preliminary election and who said the pledge is important, Connolly leads by 17 points, 45 to 28 percent, seeming to indicate his strategy on the pledge has been effective so far, according to Dyck.
  • There were no significant differences in preference for the mayoral candidates based on geography, with the exception of the downtown area (including the North End, Back Bay, Beacon Hill, the Fenway, the Leather District and the West End), where Connolly is up 30 points, 50 to 20 percent, over Walsh. 
  • Although Boston elections are nonpartisan, the electorate is overwhelmingly Democratic, with 74 percent of registered voters who identify or lean toward that affiliation and 17 percent are or lean Republican. Democratic registered voters polled are split evenly between Walsh and Connolly, but Connolly is ahead with independents (45 percent to 18 percent) and Republicans (45 to 35 percent). However, voters who identify as ideological conservatives are evenly split (34 percent for Walsh and 33 percent for Connolly) and liberals favor Connolly 43 percent, compared to 33 percent for Walsh.
Results for the UMass Lowell poll are based on interviews with a random sample of 605 Boston residents who are registered voters conducted via landline and cellular telephones. Statistical results are weighted to correct known demographic discrepancies. More information on the poll methodology and full polling data are available at
UMass Lowell is a national research university located on a high-energy campus in the heart of a global community. The university offers its more than 16,000 students bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in business, education, engineering, fine arts, health, humanities, sciences and social sciences. UMass Lowell delivers high-quality educational programs, vigorous hands-on learning and personal attention from leading faculty and staff, all of which prepare graduates to be ready for work, for life and for all the world offers.