BOSTON (CBS) - The new Boston mayoral poll from the Suffolk University Political Research Center is bad news for Annissa Essaibi George on a number of fronts, most notably the whopping 30-point lead it finds for Michelle Wu, the second straight poll to show a blowout. But for the independent political action committee dropping big bucks on a TV ad campaign attacking Wu, the most devastating news was tucked into the polling crosstabs.
"How to defund our great city?" asks the ad. Answer: "Elect Michelle Wu," who it accuses of wanting to "defund the police." That became a rallying cry for protesters in the wake of George Floyd's murder by a Minneapolis cop last year, and it has drawn support from as much as a third of the public in some US cities.
But the Suffolk poll shows "defunding the police" is a political loser here in Boston.
Among all voters, only one in ten supports the idea. Defunding does better among younger voters 18 to 34 years old. But among Black voters overall, only 11 percent support it. Make that just seven percent among Latinos.
"We really don't have a high-visibility beating like a lot of these other cities have," says Suffolk pollster Dave Paleologos. "Number two, Boston Police might be better trained. And number three, you also have the Boston Marathon bombing, where Boston Police were crucial to tracking down the Marathon bomber."
And even in areas where the police are less well-regarded, the defunding mantra is blamed for costing the Democrats House seats last fall and boosting the Trump campaign.
In last week's WBZ/CBSN Boston debate, Wu waved off Essaibi George's criticism as "scare tactics."
Maybe so, but they're scare tactics that have worked elsewhere, turning "defunding the police" into one of mainstream Democrats' most-despised political slogans. And while it's no wonder Essaibi George is pushing it, the poll illustrates how tactic seems to be falling flat.
Is there any truth to the charge against Wu? She doesn't support expanding the size of the police force as Essaibi George does, has taken budget votes in the past that police advocates opposed, and has called for redirecting some financial resources currently flowing to the police into alternative methods of responding to mental illness calls.
But "defunding," which in the hands of the political ad-makers becomes a proxy for somehow dismantling police protection for the vulnerable? Not a part of the Wu platform.
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