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.

  • John

    Wells and Evans should pull out of the race and give their votes to Bowser. Neither has a chance of winning and have not been tops in the polls. This dividing the democratic vote into too many pieces might allow Gray to win the primary. Then he will be going to trial and DC will once again have a Mayor headed to jail.

  • DC


    I'd rather an indicted Mayor Gray than a unidicted Mayor Bowser.

  • Jeff

    John, you are misunderstanding Evans' role. He is running precisely to take votes from Bowser. He is the Sulaiman Brown of 2014.

  • drez

    Muriel for Mayor!

  • samantha

    City Paper, WAPO , FOX and DeBonis have been the DC Tea Party Limbaughs of this campaign . The constant anti Gray vendetta has always been about Fenty who also was bankrolled by Thompson and the Convicted Cast Of Crooks in both his mayoral campaigns . Bowser , Fenty in a skirt, can only do what the "take back racists tell her to do." This is a set up for the haters of blacks to put someone in place who will give this city to the Catania/Cruz Crew .Wake Up DC !
    Threats of indictment may cause the dishonest to fold but my God takes care of the innocent and upholds His Own !

  • DC Guy

    +1 to DC.

    Bowser is just above Orange in my preference list.

  • Daddy Grace Fish Sandwich

    Washington City Paper/Kojo Nnamdi Show Poll means very little because most D.C. voters don't read or listen to the Washington City Paper or Kojo Nnamdi Show. To be honest, I haven't seen or heard of Kojo Nnamdi since he left WHUR Howard University radio station. I didn't know the man was still alive.

  • Numberrrrs Guy

    Wells and Evans are getting more votes from blacks than from whites. smh

  • Prediction

    I wouldn't start celebrating if were Bowser. Marion Barry still a lot of respect in Wards 7 and 8 and he knows how to get out the vote. I'm sure none of the polls conducted included many residents from EOTR. This will be a close election, but Gray will win by a hair.

    Also, I've talked to several folks in the past week and ALL have expressed resentment of the WashPost and media,such as WCP, in their viscious attacks and bias against Mayor Gray. All stated that they are voting for Gray for this fact alone.

  • NE John

    I hope I live long enough to see all these freaks die, and be replaced with regular stand-up people.

  • Aaron

    On the mayoral preferences Whites add up to 67 (and that's with undecideds included) and Blacks add up to 117. Perhaps that's with some kind of likely voter screen included?

  • Ward One Resident

    Fascinated by the people who are attacking the media over a poll conducted by PPP. Yes, WCP and WAMU paid for the poll, but they didn't conduct and crunch the numbers. As someone who is one of the 800+ people who responded and has gotten a lot of poll calls this season, the questions for this poll were quite balanced.

  • stick2yourguns

    any of you who vote for bowser are the real APRIL FOOLS!!!

  • StatEditor

    there is something wrong with graph of black voters - it adds to more than 100%

  • stick2yourguns

    With the black/white breakdown in this poll....most white people know and see that bowser wants to be white that's what they see. But just because she talks proper doesn't mean she is SMART! And when the city falls in the dumps because you voted for a person who can't even manage her city council staff don't complain. Her office has the biggest turnover of staff in the history of any council member.
    Don't be mad when agency directors are just as inexperienced as her, don't be mad when the entire city's crime rate is back to an all time high (ward 4's crime rate is just that with her as the council member).
    Don't be mad when Wall Street doesn't bail DC out because they are not interested in working with a DUMMY.
    Black women (as the Post reported this week) don't relate to her because you can smell the phony coming out of her, they have experienced her arrogance personally and the see the job she has NOT done in ward 4...
    This woman needs to complete the task of council member first before even thinking about running an entire city.

    FYI...for those of you who do not live in ward 4.....our ward has been put on HOLD by bowser and her staff until this race is over....SAD

  • Selena

    Jack is the more sinister version Ralph Nader of this election (not fighting for ideals, just the status quo). He's splitting the racist we-only-vote-for-white-folk vote that would otherwise go to Wells and would put Wells on par to beat both Bowser and Gray (if he could also just nab Sha-la-llal's voters).

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  • SayWhat

    Stay focused Muriel and remember that most citizens of the District of Columbia love a classy Mayor to represent them. Keep your eyes on April 1, 2014. You will have a lot of people coming after you now, because you are leading in the polls, but stay classy but firm and you will be rewarded April 1, 2014. Go Muriel!

  • ward four

    I am voting for Gray now. I don't want Muriel to win. She would crush poor people in this city.

  • NeedASchool

    Wait a minute? 14% undecided and 3.3% margin of error after talking to less than 900 people on landlines? What? That's 17.3% wiggle room here. That could be Andy Shallal or Tommy Wells for the win with these soft statistics. Why are you pushing the idea of a two-person race? The poll shows that this thing is wide open!!!

    A vote for Gray is a vote for Catania in November. A vote for Bowser is a vote for Fenty. Thank goodness there are other choices.

  • Tight Lips

    lol so Orange on secured 1 more vote that Reta Jo Lewis and 5 less votes than Andy Shallal lol. I can't take this poll serious.

    Andy should run for Ward 4 and get Bowser out the way though.

  • Jim Ed

    I ask this as an honest question:

    Who are all these white people voting for Muriel Bowser? Of all the white people I know they generally fall into several easily sorted groups -
    1) Those voting for Gray because they're happy with the city's progress and dislike all of the challengers.
    2) The wealthy and progressive non-profiteer type from Capitol Hill voting for Wells.
    3) The leftists / anti-capitalists voting for Shallal. 4) The old guard west of the park voting for Evans.

    I just don't see where these big demographics of white people voting for Bowser are coming from. Not THAT many people live in Shepherd Park.

  • drez

    Selena- Jack voters and Tommy voters are not likely to have much crossover. The two candidates may be white males but they are very different with regard to policy and priority.

  • Adam Morgans

    There's no way an indicted Gray can beat Catania in the general election. Not happening.

    Realistically, the only choices are Bowser or Catania.

  • Ward 5 Resident

    Muriel for Mayor. I wish her the best.

  • No Muriel

    This poll is completely BOGUS. It was conducted on a land line. That's just laughable in this day and age. Voters under 35 were completely left out of this poll. Will Sommer and the City Paper should be ashamed of themselves...

  • Mark Jackson

    Muriel Bowser for Mayor. She will win the primary and the general. everyone I know is voting for Muriel!

  • Anti-Orange

    I would vote for Carlos Allen over Orange

  • Corky

    I almost sriously considered reading this whole story until I saw that the poll was conducted for the Citypaper. Sorry. You guys have zero credibility when it comes to this mayoral race.

  • justsayin

    I wouldn't vote for Bowser to be mayor of Gilligan's Island, much less DC.

  • SEis4ME

    You guys have zero credibility when it comes to this mayoral race.

    Except when they post an article you actually agree w/.

  • Land O’ Lines

    Chuck Thies knows about protracted smear campaigns that is for sure but it seems he has gone over the ledge once again wherein everything echoes one of his own adolescent moves. Yes Chuck, it is the Post's reckless headline which is Vinnie's problem. You said so.

    Chuck was an interesting choice for this job apart from the fact that it represented a candidate no one would work for and a consultant no one
    (At least anyone who had any prior dealings) would hire. Alas, smart (smarmy) as he is it was imperative he hold it together so it would seem Vinnie is done.

  • Wow

    Just amazing that Jack Evans gets accused of being Sulaimon Brown because he's running on a platform of knowing how the city works and how to be mayor, rather than Muriel/Tommy's "Gray stinks, and I'm not him (but don't worry that I have no clue how the DC budget works or how to work with my fellow councilmembers)!"

    Jack may be even nerdier than bowtie-wearing Anthony Williams was, but he'd easily be the best, most capable mayor of this whole bunch.

  • Will Sommer

    For those who are saying you can't trust the poll because it was "conducted" by City Paper--you realize I wasn't sitting here with a phone making the poll calls myself, right?

  • http://www.tenac.org Jim McGrath

    The poll we care about is one representing tenants in this city - - two-thirds of its population - - and they have voted overwhelmingly for Vincent Gray as Mayor: the TENAC Candidates Forum Straw Poll and TENAC Board of Directors Official Endorsement vote. Muriel Bowser trailed the field.

  • stick2yourguns

    Bowser came to the Lamond Riggs (she lives in Lamond Riggs) Citizens Assoc meeting on Wednesday and no one even bothered to clap for her...she cannot even get the backing of her own neighborhood, so why would the rest of the city trust her...I mean she can walk to this meeting in minutes and the people don't care for her.

  • SEis4ME

    Will, they only doubt the poll because it doesn't suggest what they'd hoped it would. It happens all the time.

  • John P. Reagan

    To answer the question posed, I'm white and voting for Bowser, as are most of my neighbors in Friendship Heights. She has tons of support among whites across the northern tier of Ward 3 and Ward 4 (the highest voting wards), and I expect farther south as well. I see it in Mount Pleasant also. Muriel yard signs are everywhere and many friends and neighbors have held events for her, where she's been impressive. I think she'll be a terrific mayor.

    BTW, this poll is just where's you'd expect it to be following the two Post polls showing Muriel breaking out before the Post endorsement and the indictments. Add in the lack of enthusiasm to get out to vote for Gray and the margins will be much larger on election day for Bowser.

  • Adam Morgans

    Let's all just start getting used to saying "Mayor Catania"

  • Corky

    Will Sommer--you guys have the credibility of the Tea Party when it comes to coverage of this mayoral race. No one said you were making the calls. But you sure as hell were paying the bills. Polls can be massaged in any number of ways from the way the questions are posed to the way the stats are processed.

  • Another Ward 5 voter

    I am a 36 year old, Ward 5, black man with a law degree who is voting for Gray. Folks should stop attacking PPP. They are by far the most prolific and accurate pollster. They've nailed the results for elections all over the country (with some misses like the notoriously hard to measure special elections in Fl and the CO state senate recall). The silver lining with this poll for Gray voters is that it will snap them out of their complacency. You will notice that there aren't many yard signs around the city. There were far more in previous elections. It is my unsubstantiated hunch that a lot of those sign-less houses contain Gray voters (like my house). I'm one of those complacent voters but I'm also one of those anyone but Muriel voters who just got a whole lot less complacent as a result of this poll. And if anyone is curious about my politics, I am a progressive who gets infuriated with other progressives for their short shortsightedness (see Wells voting against his own marijuana bill because it wasn't everything he wanted, see also progressive votes for Muriel because she is not Gray and they foolishly pine for Fenty and he is anti union minions). I have no delusions about the shadow campaign. However, instead of going after a challenger who still got outspent 2-1 by the incumbent, maybe we should direct that energy into real campaign finance reform. Otherwise, you are all fools arguing about a corrupt process producing corrupt outcomes. CHANGE THE DAMN PROCESS OR YOU WILL KEEP GETTING THE SAME RESULTS!!!!!!! (see: Bowser's weak ass reform when we had a chance because of the 2010 campaign outrage to really do some about it, but no, we are still peal clutching about a campaign four years ago-great, gotta love the focus on the real issues there.) BTW, what is this election about? At least last time it was mostly about Fenty/Rhee and Fenty's cronies. This time it's about.... the 2010 campaign financing, right?

  • TheWayISeeIt

    Based on this most recent poll, the time has come for the following folks to say we fought as hard as we could with our limited resources and came up short: councilmembers orange and wells, and ms lewis and mr Shallal.. The race is now between mayor gray and councilmembers bowser and evans. Now is the time to get on a train.

  • No Muriel

    I like how Will Sommer commented to defend his poll but didn't address that the poll was conducted by prehistoric land lines...

  • Tight Lips

    @Anti-Orange thats a shame because based off the debates, I usually see Carlos Allen nodding his head when Orange raises points as to why the city is in shambles.

  • No Muriel

    I have yet to hear a Muriel Bowser voter actually articulate WHY they are voting for her. I just hear "she's great" and "she has vision" but when pressed to go further, they kind of freeze up. It's really sad.

  • M in DC

    I'm really surprised that Wells didn't place higher in this poll. I thought he'd get a bounce from the big union endorsements and ethics in general after the JT stuff. I really don't know who to vote for. I was leaning toward Wells but like a lot of people today, I'm now afraid that'd be a wasted vote. I'd actually prefer Gray to Bowser.

  • stick2yourguns

    #justsaying you just made my day....I am cracking up

  • DCShadyBoots

    (snicker) @ this silly poll.

  • DCShadyBoots

    Muriel will never be mayor. The numbers just aren't there.

  • Northwesterneer

    Everyone I spoke to is planning to vote for Andy Shallal, I am trying to figure out what that means about the demographics of my friends. No one I know is interested in Bowser, some are probably voting for Gray but afraid to admit it out loud because he's about to be indicted.