Vincent Gray opens commanding lead on Fenty, Washington Post poll finds
Five months after launching a mayoral challenge once thought unlikely, D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray has built an imposing lead over incumbent Adrian M. Fenty.
Among registered voters surveyed by The Washington Post, Gray leads Fenty 49 to 36 percent. Among likely voters, Gray's lead expands to 53 to 36 percent -- a 17-point spread.
Read Nikita Stewart and Jon Cohen's full story on the poll result. The margin of error for register voters is plus or minus three percent; for likely voters, four percent.
The explanation for Fenty's poor performance is clear: His support among African-Americans has simply cratered. Only 19 percent of black voters are supporting Fenty to Gray's 64 percent. Gray voters are more enthusiastic in their support for their candidate and less likely to change their vote. Fenty does as well among white voters as Gray does among blacks, but Gray captures nearly 30 percent of whites.
As I recently discussed on this blog, the racial makeup of the city electorate is a matter of some debate. The Post poll finds likely voters to be 63 percent black -- slightly higher than the 60 percent found in our 2006 pre-primary poll, which closely predicted the election result. A recent poll by Clarus Research Group found Gray and Fenty in a statistical tie among a sample that was 52 percent black. According to the Post's modeling, Gray would still have a significant lead if the electorate were evenly split.
So Fenty might hold out hope that the electorate will end up being significantly whiter than our poll says it will be. But we like our numbers -- we call a random numbers from a citywide list and then screen respondents for the likelihood that they will vote. It's the gold-standard method of scientific pollsters, the method Post pollsters used in 2006, which, as I mentioned, predicted the primary result pretty darn well.
Our sample includes cell phones to compensate for any biases of no-landline households. It is D.C. in August, meaning a significant number of households may well be out of town. But Post pollsters have tried to compensate for that by extending the calling over eight days -- nearly twice as long as typical polls. One real wild card is the impact of same-day registration and early voting, which starts Monday.
So aside from any other developments in the race over the next 17 days, the Fenty camp needs to hope that white turnout trends way up, that their GOTV operation is thorough, and that perhaps that word of such a commanding lead might dampen enthusiasm among Gray's supporters.
Check Monday's paper for my analysis of how Fenty went from a 142-precinct sweep to this precarious situation.
August 29, 2010; 12:01 AM ET
Categories: Adrian Fenty , DCision 2010 , The District , Vincent Gray
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