Crime Tops City’s Concerns; Majority of Voters Oppose Center City Arena

An Emerson College Polling/PHL17 survey of Philadelphia Democratic primary voters finds a tight race for mayor ahead of the May 16 election. Helen Gym leads the field with 21%, followed by Cherelle Parker with 18%, Rebecca Rhynhart with 18%, and Allan Domb with 14%. Jeff Brown trails with 10%. With less than a week until Election Day, 15% of likely voters are undecided. When these voters are asked which candidate they lean towards, and that is added to their total support, Gym’s support increases to 23%, Parker to 21%, Rhynhart to 20%, and Domb to 17%. 

“This is an exciting race where there is no clear frontrunner,” Spencer Kimball, Executive Director of Emerson College Polling, said. “The top four candidates are within the poll’s margin of error, and could receive the most votes depending on demographic turnout.”

Voters’ age plays a significant factor in candidate support: Gym holds a ten-point lead over Rhynhart among voters under 50, 33% to 23%, whereas Parker holds a plurality of support of voters over 50, at 24%, followed by Domb at 21%.

“Parker’s base of support is Black voters: 35% of whom support her for Mayor. However, she does not garner more than 10% from any other racial group. Meanwhile, Gym leads with Asian voters with 32% support, and Gym leads Rhynhart among Hispanics 43% to 28%. Rhynhart and Gym split the white vote with 24% each.”  Kimball said. “The key may be Domb, who pulls 21% support from White voters. If Domb’s support changes that could create a pathway to victory for himself, or one of the other three candidates.”

There is also an educational divide within the electorate when it comes to who voters support for Mayor: Gym leads Rhynhart among postgraduates 41% to 20%. Parker leads among voters with high school degrees or less with 21%, followed by Rhynhart at 19%. Gym receives 11% support from this group.

Of the top mayoral candidates, Rhynhart has the highest favorability rating at 60%. This compares to 51% who have a favorable view of Parker, 47% of Domb, 44% of Gym, and 35% of Brown.  Brown holds the highest unfavorable rating at 39%, followed by Gym and Domb at 36%, Parker at 31%, and Rhynhart at 20%. 

Democratic voters were asked which candidate they trust most to handle three areas: city finances, education and crime. On city finances, Rhynhart splits from the group: 31% of voters trust her most to handle city finances, followed by Gym at 20% and Domb at 18%. On education, 29% trust Gym most, followed by Parker at 22%, Domb at 20%, and Parker at 22%. On crime, voters were split: 21% trust Parker most to handle crime in Philadelphia, 20% trust Domb most, 19% Rhynhart, 18% Gym, and 14% Brown. 

Crime is the most important issue for a plurality of primary voters (46%) in determining which candidate they will support for Mayor, followed by education (12%), jobs and unemployment, housing affordability, and the city budget at 7% respectively. 

A slight majority of Democratic voters (51%) oppose the newly proposed Center City arena for the Philadelphia 76ers that would be built on the border of Chinatown, while 30% support the new arena, and 19% are unsure. 

“Of voters who support the proposed Center City arena, 26% plan to vote for Rhynhart, 17% Domb, and 17% Parker. Of those who oppose the arena, 30% plan to vote for Gym, and 21% for Parker. Of those who are undecided, 19% support Brown, 16% support Rhynhart,” Kimball noted. 

Extending the Broad Street subway line up Roosevelt Boulevard is popular among Democratic voters: 72% support this while 12% oppose. Sixteen percent are unsure. 

Seventy-one percent (71%) of voters think the city is on the wrong track, while 29% think Philadelphia is headed in the right direction. President Joe Biden holds a 60% approval among Democratic primary voters.


The Emerson College Polling/PHL17 Philadelphia survey was conducted May 7-9, 2023. The sample of likely Democratic voters, n=600, has a margin of error (MOE), of +/- 3.9 percentage points.  The data sets were weighted by gender, education, race, age, and 2023 turnout modeling. Turnout modeling is based on US Census parameters, and Pennsylvania voter registration data. 

It is important to remember that subsets based on demographics, such as gender, age, education, and race/ethnicity, carry with them higher credibility intervals, as the sample size is reduced. Survey results should be understood within the poll’s range of scores, and understand with a confidence interval of 95% a poll will fall outside the range of scores 1 in 20 times.

Data was collected by contacting an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system of landlines, cell phones via SMS-to-web, and an online panel of voters. 

This survey was conducted by Emerson College Polling and sponsored by Nexstar Media. All questions asked in this survey with exact wording, along with full results and cross tabulations can be found here.