Politics

What 3 maps show about Boston’s mayoral preliminary election

The mayoral preliminary is behind us, but how the city voted can tell us a lot about the candidates and the most likely outcome in November.

Councilors Michelle Wu and Annissa Essaibi George appear poised to duel in November Boston mayoral election. Barry Chin/Nathan Klima

Did you know you can learn a lot about a place from its polling maps?

On Sept. 14, Boston voters narrowed the field to current at-large city councilors Michelle Wu, who lives in Roslindale, and Annissa Essabi George, from Dorchester. The three Black candidates, including the acting mayor, were all beat out for the two spots on the November ballot. Still, Wu and Essaibi George both identify as people of color — Wu is Taiwanese American and Essaibi George is Arab-Polish American. 

Boston’s mayoral preliminary election is behind us, but how the city voted can tell us a lot about the candidates and the most likely outcome in November. Using city demographic and election data, the MassINC Polling Group created several maps of the city that, put together, paint quite a picture. 

Though Wu and Essaibi George had sizable victories, this map shows acting mayor Kim Janey’s success in a significant area of the city. MassINC Polling Group Research Director Richard Parr noted that Wu came in ahead of Essaibi George in nearly every precinct Janey (as well as Andrea Campbell and John Barros) won — and by pretty significant numbers. 

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Wu won or tied for 125 of Boston’s 255 precincts, and was runner up in another 72. 

“We saw in the preliminary that the Black vote is not a monolith, it’s split among Andrea Campbell and Kim Janey,” he said. “You could make the argument that if there had been maybe one African American candidate maybe that person would have gotten through. I can see it splitting by age — I can see the younger, more activist African American progressive types going with Wu and I can see the older guard African American voters going a little more with Annissa Essaibi George. 

West Roxbury went for Essaibi George, but Wu lives in Roslindale, and Parr pointed out that they actually tied in a few precincts. 

“That whole line there — between West Roxbury, Roslindale, Hyde Park — is going to be a really interesting battleground in the fall,” he said. “A lot of people vote there, and it’s Wu’s home turf…but then we saw Annissa Essaibi George appealed to some of the white voters in West Roxbury, and it seems like they have an affinity with the voters in Dorchester and South Boston. So Annissa has these two little camps of base that she’s drawing on, and Wu has a more diffuse broader appeal.”

When it came to who actually voted, Parr said the whiter precincts tended to turn out a little bit more, but it was a low turnout overall — only a quarter of Boston’s registered voters cast a ballot in the preliminary.

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“Despite there being three good African American candidates on the ballot, the turnout wasn’t there at all…but the places that did turn out — yeah, Annissa Essaibi George really got her vote out there,” he said. “The question is all these other people who didn’t vote — are they Annissa voters who haven’t come out to vote yet or did she get her vote out and are the people up in Allston-Brighton, Back Bay, Downtown, are they more likely to be Wu voters? If you start to fill in the colors in Mission Hill and the South End, my gut tells me they’re more likely to be Wu voters.”

He noted this could all change if Janey or Campbell endorse Essaibi George as she might make inroads into those precincts, but also referenced a pre-election poll which showed that Wu was the top second choice for the Campbell and Janey voters. 

“Right now it kind of looks like [Essaibi George’s] vote is concentrated and she made less headway into non-white precincts than Michelle Wu did,” he said. “Now, both of them, their base of support is really in the white precincts, and the question is who does better in these non-white precincts.”

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A graph shared by the president of MassINC Polling Group shows how Essaibi George did best in the whitest precincts and worst in the least white precincts. Wu’s support also drops off in the less white precincts, while Campbell and Janey’s support swells. 

Though he believes Wu is the favorite, Parr said there’s still a lot to be said and learned before anyone can confidently predict an outcome in November. Will Essaibi George expand out from her strong voting blocks? Will she convince Wu voters to give her a second look? 

“No one in the preliminary really attacked Wu — she was perceived as being ahead of everybody else so it became a race for second place — and I think people didn’t think there was a lot of advantage in attacking her or were waiting for the final,” he said. “Now we’re going to start to see a little more of a focus on her and that might bring her favorables down. And maybe some voters who didn’t vote in the preliminary come in and look at a new candidate and have a different take on it.”

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