City Desk

More Troubling Poll Numbers for Fenty

A new survey shows Mayor Adrian M. Fenty behind in key head-to-head re-election matchups. The new data comes on the heels of a Clarus Research Group poll released last week that showed similar results.

The Clarus poll had Fenty trailing D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray, 41 to 37 percent. The new survey of 500 registered voters, commissioned and financed by Metropolitan Washington Labor Council AFL-CIO, reinforces that finding, with Gray leading 43 to 39, just outside the poll's 3.9 percent margin of error.

Moreover, on the question of whether Fenty "deserves re-election," only 36 percent agreed. Fifty-one percent want someone new.

The survey, conducted by veteran local pollster Ron Lester, also tested a number of other head-to-head contests:

  • Against At-Large Councilmember Kwame Brown in a clear field, Fenty is behind is ahead 42 to 40 percent, a statistical tie
  • Against megadeveloper R. Donahue Peebles, however, Fenty runs well ahead, 51 percent to 21.
  • Against independent councilmember Michael A. Brown in a general-election matchup, Fenty runs ahead 44 percent to 37.

"I think the most significant finding is the mayor's low re-elect number," Lester says. "That's a bad position for an incumbent to be in."

The unions also polled on the Democratic at-large council race. In that contest, incumbent Phil Mendelson runs well ahead with 34 percent support; declared opponent Clark Ray takes only 10 percent. Lester also tested former school board member, Williams administration official, and minister Carolyn Graham, who is said to be exploring a run; she received 15 percent support. A hefty 40 percent remain undecided.

The poll also tested voter favorability on key figures. A report on the poll results says that "Fenty’s electoral prospects are hampered by high unfavorable ratings," with 51 percent viewing Fenty favorably and 40 percent unfavorably. Gray has an identical 51 percent favorable rating, but his unfavorable numbers are much lower, at 14 percent. Also note that the polling was done between Nov. 22 and 29, after Gray's unfavorable headlines.


  • Kwame Brown runs 50 percent favorable to 12 percent unfavorable.
  • Michael Brown runs 32 percent favorable to 15 percent unfavorable.
  • Mendelson runs 41 percent favorable to 10 percent unfavorable.

"Job approval" for Gray and the council writ large were also tested. Gray won 59 percent approval marks, with 12 percent disapproving. The council won 58 percent approval versus 25 percent disapproval. Fenty's approval numbers run close, 46 to 44 percent.

And on the issues, poll participants rank "improving education” (41 percent) as their top issue, with "reducing crime and making the streets safer" (19 percent) and "working to improve the economy and create jobs" (14 percent) close behind. Coupled with Fenty's low re-elect figure, the fact that education, Fenty's signature issue, appears as a top voter priority would stand indicate some dissatisfaction with how he's handled the issue.

In terms of caveats: The poll's financier, the Metro Labor Council, is notably invested in a Fenty defeat, having clashed with Hizzoner on issue after issue. The poll tested registered voters, without any screening for their likelihood of actually submitting a ballot. And LL has not obtained either verbatim questions or demographic/geographic breakdowns on the results. Lester does claim that blacks represented 53 percent of the sample, with whites at 37 percent and "others" at 10 percent—a fairly close track to the citywide electorate's numbers.

UPDATE, 11 A.M.: LL mistakenly reported that Kwame Brown led Fenty in a head-to-head matchup, 42 to 40 percent. Actually, Fenty led Brown by those numbers, which are within the margin of error. Mea culpa.

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  • Truth hurts

    The most troubling news is that people remain oblivious to Vince "one city" Gray's record.

  • S.E.

    Fenty was campaining in Congrees Heights yesterday. He hasn't been seen over there in the past three years, when he first ran for office.

  • Grace Jones

    Yes, it's time for Fenty's arrogant ass to go. I would vote for Frankenstein, before I would vote for Fenty.

  • Truth Hurts

    @Grace Jones, you'll likely be able to vote for Frankenstein: Vince Gray.




  • Grace Jones

    LOL@Truth Hurts! Oops, that wasn't nice, but he do look like that creature created by Dr. Frankenstein. LOL

  • proballdc

    This is not news. Even Fenty's supporters know that he faces monumental challenges in getting re-elected. His greatest challenge? himself.

  • joan

    Clark Ray should drop out of the race and go back to selling used cars.

  • Joel

    @joan: Actually, if I were Mr. Mendelson, I'd be worried that nearly a dozen years on Council only add up to a number many points lower than the Mayor's (and a whopping 40% undecided). As for Mr. Ray's previous work, he did a pretty darned good job before Council yesterday, re: contracts. Lotta love from the Councilmembers for his independence and having done a very good job as Dir. of Parks and Rec.

  • sedcdude

    @ proballdc
    I thought finkeez monumental challenge was appointing a QUALIFIED director for parks and recreation?

  • DistrictIndependent

    Mr. Joel L., you support Mr. Ray, and we figured someone would pipe up and try to spin the numbers his way - but 10%?? 10!!?? And as far as Mr. Ray's performance at the most recent hearing, I saw the replay, and I wondered pretty hard how he could say he would never engage in such behavior as is under question in this scandal, but then be the fist to sign an MOU for over 40 million sending my tax dollars out of DPR to get the scheme going. He may not have had to answer to a bunch of punchy councilmembers whom were confused and beaten down by the executive's staff, but voters have plenty of energy, and plenty of time. Mendelson aint perfect, we know that. His numbers seems to be pretty good in a three way race, for an at-large seat that is not on people's minds (the mayor's race is). All that spells trouble for a challenger whom barely cracked double-digits. And what you did not mention is that his negatives track Mr. Ray' poll numbers at 10%. Now with those very low negatives, how many of those undecideds, when they actually start paying attention to a down-ticket race, will likely go with Mendelson? I think more than Mr. Ray would like. You never know, but at this point, we have to look at the numbers we are given - all of the numbers.

    As far as the Mayor, I'm pretty sure even his most ardent supporters would agree that he's in serious trouble, and we have a few more months of scandals before the election.

  • Joel

    I'm another resident who supports Clark Ray, absolutely. And anyone with a hint of campaign experience would know that nearly a dozen years in office should translate to something better than 34%, which is much lower than the mayor's re-elec numbers in the very same poll. You fail to address that simple political reality. Is 10% for two challengers notable? Of course not, but a year out, it's nothing for an incumbent's supporter to crow about.

    You can continue to attempt to take comfort in the challengers' numbers, a year out, all you wish, but the incumbent's numbers here are incredibly low for having served so long, and the undecideds high.

    That's plenty of comfortable room for any challenger.

  • Joel Lawson

    oops forgot to do the URL name thingy. DistrictIndependent: we may disagree on one electoral contest, but email me sometime. Always good for people engaged in DC issues to connect.

  • hymesb

    How can you really poll someone that isn't even in the race yet?

    When you have 12% dissatisfaction numbers, it seems to me that no one knows the person.

    It will be interesting to see if Gray can withstand tough scrutiny of his personal and professional record.

    It didn't take long for his own mini-scandal to come up after he went offensive against Fenty.

    I have heard that there is a lot more to come if he announces. I think people get fixated on the name calling that Fenty's opponents do constantly (got to give them credit...if Fenty jay walks, they are there with a camera and an attitude) quick)

    But, Gray is has been in DC poilitcs forever. He is a backroom dealer extordinaire.

    Anybody bold enough to strong-arm Comcast for 20k on council stationary has plenty of other dirt. I wouldn't be suprised if they had something indictable.

  • Anonymous

    "Lotta love from the Councilmembers for his independence and having done a very good job as Dir. of Parks and Rec."

    That will certainly mean a lot to DC voters.