Loose Lips

Bowser, Gray Tied in Washington City Paper/Kojo Nnamdi Show Poll

Mayoral vote

Ward 4 D.C. Councilmember Muriel Bowser is in a dead heat with Mayor Vince Gray in the mayoral race two weeks before the primary, a new poll commissioned by Washington City Paper and WAMU's Kojo Nnamdi Show reveals.

Bowser and Gray both received 27 percent of the vote in the poll of 860 likely Democratic primary voters.  The automated phone poll, conducted between March 13 and 16 by Public Policy Polling, is the first public poll since shadow campaign benefactor Jeff Thompson pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges and accused Gray of knowing about the scheme last week, and it shows voters heavily believe Thompson's account.

"I think everybody has to admit this is a two-person race," Bowser campaign manager Bo Shuff tells LL.

Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans had 13 percent. Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells had 9 percent, the first time in the race that he's dipped below double digits in a public poll. The poll had a +/-3.3 percentage point margin of error.

Surprisingly, the Thompson plea last week didn't noticeably affect Gray's numbers between public polls, with Gray receiving 28 percent of likely voters in a February survey. Still, Gray campaign manager Chuck Thies says the mayor was polling higher than 28 percent in the campaign's own surveys immediately before the Thompson plea.

Gray's campaign, which had the largest bank account in the race in last week's campaign filings, plans to make up the lost support in the final days of the campaign with more mailers and canvassers, according to Thies. He blames the discrepancy between voter satisfaction with the city's direction and Gray's poll numbers on Gray being mistreated between the media and his opponents.

“The only logical conclusion is a protracted smear campaign," Thies says.

But if Thompson's plea isn't swaying Gray's most devoted supporters, voters do know who of the two that they believe. The poll asked a question that echoed Gray's rhetorical one at last week's State of the District address: Who do you believe, Gray or Thompson? It found 48 percent of respondents believed Thompson's version of the 2010 campaign was more accurate than Gray's, compared to just 24 percent who believed Gray more than Thompson.

Thompson or Gray

Thies blamed the unappetizing numbers for the mayor on people who confused the shadow campaign financier with other famous Thompsons, like former Georgetown basketball coach John Thompson.

“You’re asking this in the days immediately after the Washington Post had a reckless headline that would influence public opinion," Thies says. "So that to me is a worthless question."

While Bowser and Gray are tied as voters' first picks, they weren't equally chosen as the second choice for voters—but the majority of respondents said their support was pretty firm.

Strength of support overall

Of those whose support was not very or not at all strong, 39 percent chose Bowser as their second choice, followed by Evans with 18 percent and Busboys and Poets owner Andy Shallal with 11 percent. A mere 10 percent chose Gray as their second choice, while 8 percent would opt for Wells.

Evans, who had been nearly tied with Bowser as the second choice in the February poll, disputed the accuracy of the second-choice rankings this time around. "Everybody likes me, but I'm the second choice of everybody," Evans says.

Despite his dipping poll numbers, Wells insists he hasn't lost hopes in his chances. Instead, he cited a poll by a labor group which he wouldn't name, that he says put him in third place, and anticipated more spending from firefighter and police unions that recently endorsed him.

“I don’t believe that Vince Gray's going to be at 27 percent at the end of this week," Wells says.

Like many recent D.C. elections, the results split along racial lines. White voters favored Bowser, while a plurality of black respondents supported Gray:


White voters were also far less likely to believe Gray over Thompson when it came to the shadow campaign. While black voters were nearly equally divided over whether they believed Gray, Thompson, or didn't know who to believe, 69 percent of white voters believed Thompson compared to only 10 percent who believed Gray.

Shadow campaign white voters

Shadow campaign black voters

The survey was the third PPP poll for City Paper and the Kojo Nnamdi Show; the pollsters predicted Gray's winning margin in the 2010 Democratic primary and put independent David Grosso within reach of incumbent Michael Brown in the 2012 at-large D.C. Council race, which Grosso won. Full crosstabs and results from additional questions will be published online Wednesday and featured in next week's print edition of City Paper. Tune into today's Kojo Nnamdi Show at noon to hear some discussion of the poll's findings, too.

Correction: Due to a graphing error, two charts originally published with this story listed incorrect totals for black and white voters' preferences.

  • Northwesterneer

    This poll is completely BOGUS. It was conducted on a land line.
    It's not actually possible to conduct polls via cell phone because of the way cell phone numbers are organized. Simply put, I have friends in other cities who kept their 202 numbers and friends in DC who kept their 571 numbers. Complain, I guess, but there is no way to do a phone poll with cell phones- look into it.

  • Zelda

    Bowser v. Catania would be the worst possible scenario. I worked at the Council and both of them are awful. Bowser can't be trusted and her word is worthless. I don't see any moral compass in her at all. Catania is a self-serving opportunist. I'll take Gray over the both of them. Maybe he crossed the line to get elected, but as mayor, he has been above board. It's too bad, though, that the outsider candidates don't get much attention. Drawing from the Council is not good for DC.

  • Maturelady

    Okay, so four years ago, Mayor Gray, who is currently accused of doing all kinds of illegal activity to desperately get elected mayor is being praised for his values and principles. What the hell, Mr. law degree graduate, you obviously went to a "diploma mill" college because based on your comments, I don't know how you got a law degree. And justsayin', you're not too far behind Mr. Law degree with your comments-although I must admit they were hilarious. Let me just set the record straight, right now, Zelda, none of their words are worth anything, everyone knows that politicians will say anything UNTIL they get elected, then they all have SENIOR MOMENTS. But all things considered, Muriel Bowser is the intelligent choice for our city next mayor. All I can say is GO MURIEL BOWSER. Lord knows, we need some new blood in this rapidly changing city.

  • Get Good Government

    Unfortunately, Gray isn't that good at running the government. Fire & EMS is in shambles, precisely because of Gray, his crony hire ellerbe, and their desire to employ the unemployable.

  • Miss Lu Lu Hogg

    Darlings when all this madness and foolishness is over, my husband Boss Hogg and I will go to Disneyland. LOL

  • Miss Lu Lu Hogg

    Northwesterneer, you have friends? I didn't know people like you had friends or is human.

  • DC Guy

    I agree with the comment that most people voting for Murial cannot articulate why. The Ward 3/4 voters supporting have been duped by the theme that she is Adrian 2.0. Well, she might be, but all of the bad parts of Adrian and few, if any of the good.

  • truth hurts

    Keep in mind that polls capture voter preferences only at the times the polls are taken. This new poll, while relatively recent, mostly measured voter preferences last week. With the exception of Wells, though, the poll is pretty consistent with my sense of where things stand TODAY.

    If the election were held today, I think Gray and Bowser would each draw about 25%, Wells about 19%, Evans about 17%, with the other candidates cumulatively drawing about 14%. Between now and April 1, the undecideds likely will continue trending toward Bowser and away from Gray. It's sinking in that Gray will be indicted, and they don't want any part of the ensuing circus.

    In conclusion, Truth Hurts projects a close primary, with Bowser edging out Gray by 2% of the votes cast. If, on the other hand, Gray somehow wins, he'll nevertheless get indicted and either Catania or Mendo eventually will become mayor.

  • Tight Lips

    lol vote Bowser so she can elect a Deputy Mayor for EOTR ahahaha, you gotta be kidding me!

  • drez

    Muriel will win. When Thies said the media was the strategy, he was obviously talking about his exit strategy and blaming the media for his candidate's loss.

  • DCShadyBoots

    Murial will lose.

  • SEis4ME

    And you disagree that the media jas treated Bowser with kid gloves in comparison to every other candidate?

  • DCShadyBoots

    Muriel is is a foul mouthed chicken head. I've witnessed her hood-ness.

  • Close Observer

    With this kind of momentum and nothing good likely to happen for Mayor Gray between now and the primary, Muriel Bowser should start to benefit from a bandwagon effect. I cannot see Mayor Gray adding new supporters, rather they need to turn out their vote and with much greater scrutiny on how that is executed and financed, he's at a critical disadvantage. It will be interesting to see how the monied interests (read-developers) give in the next week. My bet is that Muriel starts to see huge infusions of money from people who work with the city.

  • Shut up

    Man Wells has the most desperate and volatile supporters. They hate everyone and cry like infants when things don't go their way. Wells was never a serious contender. Any group of people that convinces themselves that their half baked $1.99 poll is more accurate than PPP should quickly be dismissed as serious.

    Even if every white new voter with a cell phone voted for him they'd still be behind. This is the second poll that Wells has significantly trailed in the second choice category.

  • justsayin

    An 8 year old child from DC has been missing for nearly a month, and was last seen with a sexual predator whose wife was found murdered. The local media is now reporting that the MPD has provided some conflicting info and they aren't responding to any requests for info that might help the public help them to locate the child. How about some of these self-important hotshots who are jumping on anything that moves with their empty campaign spiels, jump on THAT!! For once, act like you give a damn about the most vulnerable citizens in the city BEFORE a tragedy takes place. Ask some questions and demand some answers and hopefully due diligence is being done towards the efforts to return this child unharmed, because nobody wants to see politicians on TV saber-rattling about "getting to the bottom" of things if the authorities have in fact dropped the ball here.

  • Elemental

    Gray is sinking like a stone. When you are losing voters rapidly and gaining none, you're in trouble. Undecideds won't likely break for him. Even committed voters won't be motivated to get to the pools. He's done.

  • John P. Reagan

    . . . they might actually be interested in the pools, but not the polls

  • http://citypaper Tony

    Give Bowser the same opportunity that YOU PEOPLE gave that piece of to grow as police chief.

  • DontSleeponDude

    Folks, you are making this far more complicated then what it really is? Let me simplify this some--there is only one wildcard--does Gray get indicted by April 1st. In DC, there is the primary election and then the general election. For way too long, the winner of the primary ALWAYS wins the general election. The problem is that, with Catania coming into this election, this paradigm will abruptly change. Each of your candidates (Gray, Bowser, Evans, Wells etc.) could win the primary--realistically it is just a two person election (Gray and Bowser, assuming no indictment pre-April 1st). BUT if your candidate cant go toe-to-toe with the diabolically smart, tactical, and shrewd likes of Catania--they WILL lose in the general election. BELIEVE DAT. So to simplify this, Gray is the only person capable of going toe to toe with Catania. The other lack the intellect, actual hands on executive experience, or win at all costs (Hilary Clinton-like) mindset, needed to stop the Catania freight train. Folks being nice and articulate in a debate with Catania--aint going to work. I am not a Catania fan--but I call them as I see them.

  • http://citypaper SLY

    DontSleeponDude, you are myopic.Also, you are very CUTE.

  • Marvin E. Adams

    Reading some of these comments is almost as entertaining as watching the Republicans, GOPers, Tea Partiers nd Dixiecrats implode. That said, here we are, less than two weeks away from the Aptil 1st primary and it seems quite a few folks are still confused. Cases in point:

    1) "Want new blood." Tell me, what is "new" about Councilmember Bowser? She has been a part of the one-party Democratic monopoly, seemingly forever.
    2) "Mayor Gray has done a decent job of managing the city." This begs the question: If he, as stated, has done a decent job, why change?
    3) "Unhappy with any of the Wilson Building occupants." Yet, there is no willingness to coalesce behind either Lewis or Shallal.
    4). "Polls don't metter." Not too long ago, the likes of Karl Rove, Greta Van Susterern, et al, stated similarly, and the result of the general election, much to their chagrin, did not support their pronouncements.
    5) 'D.C. will N-E-V-E-R elect a white mayor!." P-L-E-A-S-E!!!!!
    Until we, the citizens of the District, fully demand and embrace change, then none of this really matters. Because as the late Godfather of Soul, James Brown, would say, "We're just talking loud, and saying nothing."

  • DontSleeponDude

    @ SLY, thanks. I will work on being more open minded...but the democratic nominee will have to step up his or her game for the general election. Real Talk


    I wouldn't give bowser water if she was on fire.

  • drez

    ^ As if. You couldn't rain on her parade if you tried.

  • drez

    Muriel is the only one who can beat both felonious gray and David Catania.

  • HUAlum71


    DontWokeEm, LetEmSlept is what the slaves were said to reply when referring to a Master/Mistress without a clue to the fact that their human property did in fact have thinking power.

  • tntdc

    PPP may have been hired to do the poll but they are always told what parameters to use by the buyer. That makes a huge difference.

    A few things are dubious about this poll: Bowser getting most white votes, Evans going up to 12% this late, Wells dropping after the indictment.

    I can't imagine a Wells voter with a landline phone but hopefully PPP knows how to allow for this and CP didn't set that parameter.

  • Brians.Ions

    There's nothing 'diabolical' about Catania winning citywide elections for umpteen years. Good Dems voting for a good, capable person explains it.

  • Will Sommer


    Evans didn't go up to 12 percent; previous polls have already showed him hovering around there.

  • two horse race

    orange might mount a late charge and bust three percent, claim victory and file a lawsuit for a recount.

    could happen.

  • Dcunited

    You guys crazy! I know Gray since '83. He's been white colla' robbn' since jump!!! Now that he got caught everyone is thinking this is the first time. Naaa....check the Covdent House books. He ran the money and kicked all the contracts to his home boys. I know cause I'm one of them!!!

  • HUAlum71

    What happened Dcunited?
    You get kicked to da curb or sumpin'?
    You ain't no homeboy no mo?
    Tryin' to bust a move fo some Muriel money?
    Ain't gonna happen.


    Actually it speaks volumes about YOUR shady character.
    Much more so than your thinly veiled attempted character assassination of the Mayor.

    Call Ron Moten or Uncle Earl! Maybe they'll hook you up. Oh, that's right......

  • HUAlum71


  • Bowser???

    I am still undecided, but I cannot for the life of me understand the support of Bowser. I supported Fenty for Council and then for Mayor. When he endorsed Bowser to replace his Council seat it was obvious she was just a pawn to do his bidding.

    I don't think she's capable of managing the city and her legislative record is weak. The few times I have dealt with her she has been rude to constituents and did not follow-up on requests.

    I would prefer Gray, Evans, or even Shallal over the rest of the candidates at this point.

  • CanIhavea$1

    Barry is the vampire king of DC. Gray is just his food B.

  • Sammy Baxter

    Ugh... I'm switching my vote from Tommy Wells to Bowser. We need run-offs in this city... until then, please vote strategically!!

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