D.C. poll finds mayoral race to be a virtual tie
The D.C. mayoral race is a near dead heat as candidates begin their final month of campaigning, according to a new independent poll.
Vincent Gray holds a slim lead over incumbent Adrian Fenty, 39 percent to 36 percent, Clarus Research Group determined in a live telephone poll of 501 registered Democrats. Among poll respondents who identified themselves as "very likely" to vote in the primary, Gray holds a slightly larger advantage -- 41 to 36 percent. In both cases, the proportion of undecided voters is more than 20 percent. The poll has a 4.4 percent margin of error.
"Gray now has the edge, but this race is far from over," said Clarus President Ron Faucheux in a release.
Washington City Paper reported Monday on a poll commissioned by business interests that showed Gray with an 8 point lead over Fenty, but many details about that poll and its sample were not made available to reporters.
In keeping with past polls, the Clarus numbers show a sharp racial divide, with Gray holding a 54 to 16 percent advantage among black voters, while Fenty holds a 61 to 19 percent advantage among white voters.
A poll done by Clarus in November found Fenty with 34 percent support in a hypothetical race that included council members Gray, Kwame Brown (D-At-Large), and Michael A. Brown (I-At-Large).
"Voter turnout could well determine the winner of the mayoral primary," the poll report [PDF] said. "A high white turnout is clearly Fenty's best path to victory. Conversely, a high African American turnout is Gray's best path to winning the primary."
Other candidates on the Democratic ballot -- Leo Alexander, Sulaimon Brown and Ernest Johnson -- have won minuscule support; Alexander polled at 2 percent overall and 1 percent among likely voters. Clarus also polled a head-to-head race between Fenty and Gray, finding that Gray upped his advantage to six points in that hypothetical race. The November poll found a four-point advantage for Gray.
Clarus also released numbers on the D.C. Council chairman race, finding that Kwame Brown holds a 10 point advantage over Vincent Orange in the Democratic primary -- 39 percent to 29 percent. State Board of Education member Dorothy Douglas won 3 percent support, with 29 percent undecided.
A survey of voter recognition reveals that more voters have learned about Vincent Gray, and for the most part, they like what they see. Clarus' November poll found that 38 percent of voters didn't know enough about the council chairman to form an opinion. The current poll found that 11 percent of respondents weren't familiar with Gray.
In a survey of voter approval, Fenty won a 49 percent approval rating to 41 percent disapproval -- a marked advantage since a November Clarus poll, which pegged his approval at 21 percent. Clarus did not release approval numbers for Gray, though 55 percent of poll respondents said they had a "favorable" opinion of him to 20 percent unfavorable. Fenty's favorable rating is only at 46 percent, with unfavorables at 42 percent.
Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee won slightly better numbers than Fenty, with approval running in her favor 50 percent to 35 percent. "Rhee gets positive marks from 80% of white women, her strongest demographic, and 25% from black women, her weakest demographic," the poll reports notes. And Police Chief Cathy Lanier, according to the report, "remains the undisputed champ of D.C. government" with 80 percent approval.
Polling calls were made Sunday and Monday -- after Fenty debuted negative ads attacking Gray's record. Poll results released by Clarus did not include any gauge of advertising's impact on the race. The sample consisted of 57 percent women to 43 percent men. Fifty-two percent of poll respondents identified themselves as African-American, with 40 percent white and 8 percent other. Clarus did not release details about the geographic distribution of the sample.
UPDATE, 1:35 P.M.: I've changed the headline of this post to reflect that Gray's lead is within the poll's margin of error. Some polling experts note a couple of other things to keep in mind: Clarus appears not to have polled cell phones, and a two-day poll leaves it susceptible to the absence of vacationers -- not a small issue when polling in D.C. in August.
August 18, 2010; 8:30 AM ET
Categories: Adrian Fenty , DCision 2010 , The District , Vincent Gray
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