BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Byron Brown has widened his lead on India Walton in the race for Buffalo mayor to more than 17 points, according to a new WIVB/Emerson College poll released Tuesday, one week before Election Day.
If the vote was today, 53.8% of likely voters said they would vote for Brown, the incumbent mayor running a write-in campaign after losing the Democratic primary. 36.2% of those polled said they would vote for Walton, 6.2% said they remain undecided and 3.8% said they would vote for someone else.
The WIVB/Emerson College poll specifically addressed the write-in nature of Brown’s campaign. When presented with the question of who they were planning to vote for, respondents were given Walton’s name, an undecided option, and an option for “someone else,” since Walton will be the only candidate listed on the ballot. Those who responded “someone else” were required to provide Brown’s name.
“Considering only 6% of voters are currently undecided right now, Byron Brown has a pretty significant lead in the race that may not be able to be overcome by India Walton,” Emerson College Polling analyst Isabel Holloway said. “Even when we asked those undecided voters who they are leaning towards at this time, they break over two-to-one toward someone else rather than India Walton.”
Brown’s lead in the poll has grown from August when the last WIVB/Emerson College poll was conducted. In the Aug. 12 poll, Brown held a 10-point lead, with 50.2% of respondents supporting the mayor in his quest for an unprecedented fifth term versus 40.1% who said they supported Walton.
Two factors stand out in the polling as reasons why Brown now leads despite losing the primary: A likely increase in voter turnout for the general election and negative messaging about Walton that has seemingly resonated with voters.
While public opinion of Brown worsened slightly since the primary – 35.6% of respondents said their opinion of the mayor had worsened since the primary, 32.3% said it stayed the same and 32.0% said it improved – likely voters reported a sharp decline in their perception of Walton. More than half of those surveyed (51.5%) said their opinion of Walton worsened since the primary compared to 29.7% who said it improved and 18.8% who said it stayed the same.
Meanwhile, 42.7% of respondents – including Republicans and Independents – said they did not cast a vote in the Democratic primary, which Walton won by about 1,000 votes. Brown also led in the poll among Democrats, 49.5% to 40.8%.
“Considering that Walton won the Democratic primary, one would expect her to be winning among registered Democrats in the general election,” Holloway said. “However, we found that that is not true. In fact, Byron Brown is leading among registered Democrats. This suggests that Democrats tuned in after the primary election and maybe did not turn out for Byron Brown in the primary but are choosing to do so in the general.”
Walton led among Black voters (53.5% to 36.6%), those with four-year college degrees or higher (47.1% to 42.6%) and those age 18-34 (50.8% to 44.9%) while Brown led big with white voters (63.5% to 30.7%), those who have completed only high school or less (72.3% to 20.9%) and all other age groups.
Men slightly favored Walton, 44.7% to 41.4%, but women strongly supported Brown, 64.9% to 30.7%. Republicans overwhelmingly favored Brown, 82.4% to 8.3%.
The poll surveyed 539 likely voters between Oct. 22-23. It carries a margin of error of +/- 4.2%. More data is available here.
Brown and Walton are debating at 9:15 a.m. Wednesday morning at St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute – you can watch the event live on News 4 and WIVB.com. Election Day is Nov. 2.
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Nick Veronica is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team as a Digital Executive Producer in 2021. He previously worked at NBC Sports and The Buffalo News. You can follow Nick on Facebook and Twitter and find more of his work here.