The Coolest Political Poll D.C.'s Ever Seen
- Pick for Mayor
- Pick for D.C. Council Chair
- Employment Status
- Education Level
- Current Distance from High School
- Perceived Neighborhood Safety
- Length of DC Residence
- Neighborhood Quality Change
- Rhee's Impact on Mayoral Vote
- Rent or Own Home
- Shopping Availability Near Home
- Importance of Majority-Black City
- Summer Swimming Pool Usage
- Bike Commute, Last 30 Days
- Spent $25+ At Restaurant
- Congressional Representation
- Opinion of Marion Barry
- Favorite NFL Team
- Children in DC Schools
The great national myth about the District—the idea that helps justify our colonial status in Congress, that flickers through tourists’ minds as they troop from monument to museum, that has even wormed its way into the consciousness of many Washingtonians—is that no one really lives here. People think our city is composed entirely of transient government worker bees, its population turning over in two- and four-year cycles, and we lack the institutional knowledge about what has—and hasn’t—changed in municipal life that’s second nature elsewhere.
But a Washington City Paper/Kojo Nnamdi Show poll of D.C. voters shows none of that is true. If it were, Adrian Fenty might be cruising to a second term. Instead, we found Vincent Gray winning easily, by a 50-39 margin. Before the Democratic Party primary that will, effectively, determine the next mayor, our poll reveals a changing city that’s split over what to make of the transitions.
Moved here a few years ago? You probably take a dim view of Marion Barry. Lived in D.C. at the height of Barry’s power? You may think he still deserves respect as “Mayor for Life.” Long-term Washingtonians are more fed up with the city’s lack of voting rights, more faithful to the Redskins, prouder of the District’s black majority.
The poll confirms what political candidates take as gospel: newer arrivals to D.C. are whiter, younger, and a little better educated than the city as a whole. They’re likelier to have children attending D.C. Public Schools, in the midst of an election that’s turning into a referendum on Michelle Rhee’s reforms. And they’re Fenty’s most devoted voters. Unfortunately for him, they’re also outnumbered; 84 percent of our survey respondents have lived here at least 10 years.
Some of the amenities Fenty takes credit for—the bike lanes and swimming pools he hails—that have turned into racially charged symbols of gentrification actually cross demographic lines. Bike lanes dot the city’s downtown streets, but only 8 percent of D.C. voters have commuted by bike three times in the last month. Black Washingtonians are likelier to have used a municipal pool than whites. Other signs of progress, sadly, do seem to split along racial lines. Black voters are much likelier to say they can’t do much shopping near where they live than white voters, and they’re less likely to say quality of life in their neighborhood has improved recently.
Overall, though, our survey underscores this election’s fundamental paradox: Most people are pretty happy with the way things are going in D.C., but they still don’t like Fenty. The city gets good marks for safety, and more than half the respondents said quality of life in their neighborhood has gotten better over the last four years. Less than a third said it’s stayed the same. Only 10 percent said things have gotten worse.
Finally, some of our questions have little to do with politics. We didn’t want to do just another survey that yielded favorable/unfavorable ratings for D.C. players. Instead, we asked how many people are running up $25 restaurant tabs, and who our neighbors will be rooting for Sunday when the Redskins play Dallas. You can sort the data other ways using the menus above.
The poll was conducted by Public Policy Polling, which surveyed 802 registered Democrats from Aug. 30–Sept. 1. The margin of error is plus/minus 3.5 percent. We called registered voters, because we wanted to capture more new D.C. residents; mayoral elections tend to have low turnout, so screening for likely voters could have narrowed the scope.