The Coolest Political Poll D.C.'s Ever Seen

Explore our poll results by selecting a question from the list on the left, or graphing two questions to compare their relationships. Click "Flip Graph" to see the data a different way. Please note that the margin of error of combined graphs may be substantially higher than that of the main questions.
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Our survey finds your vote may be determined by when you moved here.

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.

Our Readers Say

I still think the nature of the electorate is not well known and that thi survey is focused too much on the older voting bloc. Remember that 31,000 new people registered to vote last year. That's almost a ten percent increase. There are a lot of factors in this poll to suggest it isn't capturing these new voters: 44% unemployed, only 23% college educated, 66% own home, 88% respect Barry, etc. The school numbers are just weird. 45% no kids? Only 9% have kids in school right now?

The overall results are probably close to correct, but I think pollsters are in the dark about what this city actually looks like and will remain that way until the census comes out.
It amuses me to no end to see earnest white liberals wringing their hands seeing a guy like Fenty whom they like and respect getting crushed strictly because he's not seen as "black" as the other candidate. What turns it into high comedy is that Vincent Gray could pass as a white guy ( .
Mr. Madden above, comments that it's "sad" the race has turned on the issue of race. Was he this sad in November 2008 when John McCain lost the black vote 97% - 3% nationwide? Vincent Gray is perceived by black voters as the "black" candidate - and, as John McCain, W, Dole, Bush I can all attest - they know how black people vote: monolithically for whom they think will best advocate their interests (even if their interests make no sense, at least to you). Can't say we should be surprised, right?
Very nice presentation.
Chris --

I didn't say it was sad the election is turning on race, I said it's sad that the perceptions of how the city's doing turn on race. If more black residents than white residents say quality of life in their neighborhoods isn't improving, and that they can't find the goods and services they want or need nearby them, that is sad.

It also does explain why Fenty's losing the black vote, but Fenty's political problems don't bother me. The city's problems do.
Nifty graph guys but I think you neglected to add the most important criteria in determining how people feel about Fenty/Gray and the direction of the city: income! Let's face it, you can scream race all day long, but the divide in the city is by and large along class lines. Those of means who live west of the park have very different ideas about what the office of the mayor should be focused on than those without or with less means east of Rock Creek Park. My informal poll of friends is that affluent blacks are as apt to support Fenty with as much fervor as affluent whites. Middle class and working poor black voters not so much. The racial narrative is being over-hyped by a press that insists on deligitimatizing the concerns about modest-income about their future in the city.
Very interesting poll, if not surprising results. I'd like to see the same thing with all residents and not just based on voter registration (1% Latino is obviously representative of the city as a whole).

RJ: I think the poll gets at class even without income (education, proximity to retail, etc.) and I bet you are right about race vs class, but the truth of the matter is we live in a city where the two are linked - especially with whites (94% have at least a college degree). If this were Bmore, where there are working class whites, then separating them would be more significant. But it would be nice to be able to see differences in opinions of African-Americans of different education/income levels.
I meant to type: 1% Latino is obviously NOT representative of the city as a whole.
The sad point are those looking for jobs actually think the Mayor can get them a job. The Mayor can only see more are hired by the DC government, is that what they think Gray will deliver? Mayors can encourage businesses to move into the city but the business will then do the hiring. I am discusted by the voters who are not for Fenty and have no idea what Gray intends to do if he is elected. When they see city services go back to the good old days with Barry's people back on the payroll and all we get is lip service.
Are we still calling registered or likely voters (or anyone for a poll) on a landline? If so, you're missing out on a substantial number of DC residents.
What's Next, have you bother to talk to Mr. Gray about the plans he has for the city.Try that. As far as you being disgusted this is a democratic process and if you don't like it oh well. This is not a black or white issue it is a right and wrong, accountability matters. We had 4 years of lying by this administration. It is okay as long has it is not in your backyard.
How long this "fenti"can be like Robert muggabe ???he has big time problem with working-class I can give so many example but every one who knows his him know abot it it is abot time to go!!!!!!!!!!
No on in USA ca be Robert muggabe . The best example is the sep.9,10, news which is try to get elected by" buing" vote
Does anybody actually know how many people voted in the last Mayor race? Seems to me the election is all about turnout, who can bus the must voters to polls in the wards where Gray has the lead. The folks in the Fenty wards will find their own way to the polls. Those folks are hard set to not let Gray win and they will turn out. Barry was famous for bussing his voters to the polls and there was no way to beat his bussing machine. Things have changed. A couple thousand extra votes bussed in to vote may be all either candidate needs to win.

I voted for Fenty the last election. I said give him chance . He is young smart not a civil right leader but a coucnilmen who seemed to be interested in helping the community. I did not change. His attitude changed after he bacame mayor. First he picked a novice to run the school system. She may have book smarts but she has poor people skills. I can said that as a a grandparent and a teacher. Those skills are important when trying to get a commmunity to buy into your ideas. She has a lack of respect for Afro- Americans. Yes I said it. I went to a meeting with her at the Logan School (It was for Special Education Teacher). We had a issue with the Impact evaluation system and how it should be changed for different populations. She attacked a teacher who has taught Severe/Profound students for twenty five years. We just wanted to make her see that some students must be tested in areas that are functional because their cognitive ablities are limited.. When I left the meeting I realized that this women does not have the educational background to make real sustained educational reform.I am angry that Fenty picked this women and did not consult the community. There are some people who would really be up to making legitimate reform she is not . I do not care about who she is engaged to she has a lack of respect for Afro-Americans. She talks in a very negative way to Afro-American teachers and parent in certain neighborhoods not west of the park.When you fire teachers it should not be on CNN and you should never make statements on to magazines that you fired a teacher because they were sex offenders. That makes it difficult for those who are fired (Every one is put in the same catergory). The job is not about grand standing for the media. It about real reform that benefits the entire community.She is rude and abrasive and Fenty is rude and offensive and I live in his ward and I will never vote for him again.
The visualization of the data is great; the data collected...meh. I am assuming that this wasn't conducted scientifically (institutional review board, signed consent forms from participants, yada yada yada), but if I'm wrong, just let me know.

The point is...who doesn't love an interactive charticle?
Everyone rips Fenty for Wu but she has made hard choices and our DC schools have greatly improved..FACT. SAT scores were up 26pts in DC this year against the national average of 1pt. I am so sick of people bashing this woman..facts are facts..she has postively changed the education our kids are getting in DC.

I may not like her but sometimes those are the people that have the best results.
* Chancelllor Rhee
So, it looks like we will have a Mayor Gray for the next 4 years. He will bring respect to the people that have been slighted by Mayor Fenty. I sure hope that same respect brings in businesses. Oh and those changing demographics of the city, read up, it's happening everywhere in the nation. It seems to me that Vincent Gray has taken a page out of the Hugo Chavez playbook (he is the President of Venezuela), and has used the populism of the poor to get ahead. And as Chavez has done he will make sure the poor people stay poor by cutting down education and public services, and anything else that may benefit the city, and blame capitalism for it. We will continue to have an AIDS rate similar to Tanzania and Mali, and will once again become the murder capital of the U.S. However, unlike Chavez who can very effectively, and permanently, deal with any and all opposition, Mr. Gray will have to deal with very real (and strong, and educated, and wealthy) opposition. It should be interesting to watch.
No Gray took a page from the Fenty playbook. How quick we forget that Fenty ran a grassroot campaign presenting himself a mayor for the people (i.e. the oppose of Mayor Anthony Williams who was seen as pro-business). Unfortunately, Fenty threw his playbook away after he got elected four years ago.

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