2/26: Gray Leads Democratic Challengers in D.C. Mayor’s Race

NBC4/WAMU/Washington Informer/Marist Poll

District of Columbia Mayor Vincent Gray has the advantage against the Democratic candidates challenging him in April’s Democratic primary.  Among District Democrats likely to vote in the primary, Gray leads his closest competitor, Muriel Bowser, by eight percentage points.  District residents, including a majority of Democrats, are satisfied with Gray’s job performance and are pleased with the direction of the District.  However, Gray’s 2010 campaign finance scandal has muddied his image and may be a difficult issue for some voters to overlook.

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“In the Democratic primary, Mayor Gray benefits from a very crowded field, but there are many persuadable voters,” says Dr. Lee M. Miringoff, Director of The Marist College Institute for Public Opinion.  “Voters’ second choice may be key in the closing weeks of the campaign.”

Here is how the contest stands among likely Democratic primary voters including those who are undecided yet leaning toward a candidate:

  • 28% Vincent Gray
  • 20% Muriel Bowser
  • 13% Jack Evans
  • 12% Tommy Wells
  •   6% Andy Shallal
  •   4% Vincent Orange
  •   3% Reta Lewis
  • <1% Carlos Allen
  •   1% other
  • 12% undecided

There are differences by race.  41% of likely Democratic voters who are African American support Gray, and 23% are for Bowser.  Among white Democrats who are likely to vote on primary day, Wells receives 24% to 21% for Evans, and 18% for Bowser.  Gray trails with 10%.

How strongly do likely Democratic voters in the District with a candidate preference support their choice?  44% are strongly committed to their choice for the Democratic nomination.  36% are somewhat behind their candidate while 19% might vote differently.  One percent is unsure.  Looking at the level of commitment for the top two candidates, 53% of Gray’s backers strongly support him.  This compares with 50% of Bowser’s supporters who express a similar level of commitment.

Looking at the second choice of likely Democratic voters with a candidate preference, only 12% pick Gray.  21% cite Bowser as their backup candidate.  18% say Evans is their second choice, and 12% report Wells is their second pick.  Orange is the second choice of 9% while 7% say the same of Shallal.  Four percent mention Lewis while Allen is the backup candidate for 1%.  One percent say someone else is their second choice candidate, and 15% are undecided.

When it comes to the level of enthusiasm Democrats have about voting in April’s primary for mayor, 32% are very enthusiastic.  46% are moderately enthusiastic while 16% are not too enthusiastic.  Six percent are not enthusiastic at all.

Table: 2014 District of Columbia Democratic Mayoral Primary (D.C. Likely Democratic Voters with Leaners)

Table: Intensity of Support for District of Columbia Democratic Mayoralty Candidates (D.C. Likely Democratic Voters with a Candidate Preference)

Table: Second Choice for the District of Columbia Mayoral Primary (D.C. Likely Democratic Voters with a Candidate Preference)

Table: Enthusiasm to Vote in District of Columbia Mayoral Primary (D.C. Democrats)

Democrats Like Bowser, Evans, Wells… Divide over Gray

When it comes to the candidates’ favorability, how do they compare?

  • 50% of Democrats in the District have a favorable impression of Bowser.  28% have an unfavorable one, and 22% have either never heard of her or are unsure how to rate her.
  • 46% have a positive opinion of Evans.  This compares with 29% who have a negative view of him.  One in four Democrats — 25% — has either never heard of Evans or are unsure how to rate him.
  • A plurality of Democrats — 46% — has a favorable impression of Wells.  This compares with 28% who have an unfavorable one, and 26% who have either never heard of him or are unsure how to rate him.
  • 46% of Democrats think well of Gray while 48% have a lesser opinion of him.  Five percent have either never heard of him or are unsure how to rate him.
  • Orange’s favorable rating is lopsided.  32% have a favorable opinion of Orange while 50% have a lesser view of him.  18% have either never heard of him or are unsure how to rate him.
  • While 34% of Democrats have a positive opinion of Shallal and 26% have an unfavorable one, 40% have either never heard of him or are unsure how to rate him.
  • Lewis is also little known to a slim majority of D.C. Democrats.  21% have a favorable opinion of her, and 28% have an unfavorable view of Lewis.  However, 51% have either never heard of her or are unsure how to rate her.
  • Allen is the least known of the candidates.  Only 10% of Democrats have a favorable view of him, and 26% have an unfavorable opinion of Allen.  More than six in ten — 63% — have either never heard of him or are unsure how to rate him.

Table: Muriel Bowser Favorability (D.C. Democrats)

Table: Jack Evans Favorability (D.C. Democrats)

Table: Tommy Wells Favorability (D.C. Democrats)

Table: Vincent Gray Favorability (D.C. Adults)

Table: Vincent Orange Favorability (D.C. Democrats)

Table: Andy Shallal Favorability (D.C. Democrats)

Table: Reta Lewis Favorability (D.C. Democrats)

Table: Carlos Allen Favorability (D.C. Democrats)

Economy and Jobs Most Important Issue to Many D.C. Democrats

More than four in ten Democrats — 44% — say that the economy and jobs is the most important factor in deciding their vote for mayor in April’s primary.  Ethics is the top issue for 22%, and the same proportion — 22% — reports housing is their leading motivator.  11% of Democrats cite crime as the most important factor when deciding their vote.  Two percent are unsure.

There is a racial divide.  While 50% of Democrats who are African American cite the economy and jobs as their top priority, 43% of white Democrats mention ethics as their leading issue.

Table: Most Important Issue in Deciding Vote for Mayor in April’s Democratic Primary (D.C. Democrats)

Gray’s Clouded by Campaign Finance Investigation, but Bolstered by Approval Rating

A majority of Democrats — 53% — say they are less likely to vote for Mayor Gray given the 2010 investigation into his campaign finances.  Seven percent report the scandal makes them more likely to cast their ballot for him, and 36% say the inquiry makes no difference to their vote.  Four percent of Democrats are unsure.

Most Democrats who are white — 82% — are less likely to support Gray due to the investigation into his campaign.  This compares with 33% of African American Democrats who say the same.  A slim majority of African American Democrats — 51% — says this investigation makes no difference to their vote.

Looking at the overall D.C. population, 42% of adults think Gray did something unethical but not illegal.  Close to one in four — 24% — believes he did something illegal, and 14% say he did nothing wrong.  One in five D.C. residents is unsure.  Similar proportions of registered voters share these views.

Among Democrats, 46% think Gray was involved in unethical, but not illegal, actions.  24% believe he was behind something illegal while 15% say he did nothing wrong.  15% of Democrats are unsure.

Gray has a strong job approval rating.  A majority of adults — 56% — approves of how Gray is doing in office.  36% disapprove, and 8% are unsure.  Among registered voters, a similar 55% applaud Gray’s job performance.  38% disapprove, and 6% are unsure.  Here, too, D.C. Democrats reflect these views.  56% of Democrats give Gray high marks.  This compares with 39% who think he has fallen short.  Five percent are unsure.

Slightly more than seven in ten residents — 71% — believe things in the District are headed in the right direction.  24%, though, say they are on the wrong track, and 5% are unsure.  Nearly identical proportions of registered voters share these views.  Looking at Democrats, 74% say D.C. is on track.  22% believe it has lost course, and 4% are unsure.

Table: Does 2010 Investigation into Mayor Vincent Gray’s Campaign Finances Make You More or Less Likely to Vote for Him (D.C. Democrats)

Table: Did Mayor Vincent Gray Perform Illegal or Unethical Actions (D.C. Adults)

Table: Mayor Vincent Gray Approval Rating (D.C. Adults)

Table: Direction of the District of Columbia (D.C. Adults)

Residents Mixed about Casting Ballot for Gray in November

If Gray wins the Democratic nomination, 43% of adults in D.C. say they will definitely vote for him.  However, 40% report they definitely will not.  Nearly one in five residents — 17% — is undecided.  Among registered voters, similar proportions share these views.  42% plan to support Gray while 42% say they will not cast their ballot for him.  16% are undecided.  Democrats also divide.

But, does Gray deserve to be re-elected?  Six in ten adults in D.C. — 60% — think it is time to elect someone else.  31%, however, say Gray deserves to be re-elected.  Nine percent are unsure.  The views of registered voters in the District mirror those of residents, overall.  62% of registered voters think D.C. should have a new leader.  30% believe Gray should stay in power, and 8% are unsure.  Democrats agree with these opinions.

Table: Will You Definitely Vote For or Against Mayor Gray in General Election? (D.C. Adults)

Table: Does Mayor Vincent Gray Deserve to be Re-elected? (D.C. Adults)

More than Eight in Ten Approve of Obama’s Job Performance 

85% of D.C. adults think President Barack Obama is doing well in office.  11% disapprove, and 4% are unsure.  Registered voters agree.  87% of registered voters in the District approve of the president’s job performance.  10% disapprove, and 3% are unsure.

More than nine in ten Democrats — 93% — applaud Mr. Obama’s job performance.  Four percent disapprove, and 2% are unsure. 

Table: President Obama Approval Rating (D.C. Adults)

How the Survey was Conducted

Nature of the Sample