3/26: Bowser and Gray Neck and Neck in Democratic Primary for D.C. Mayor

NBC 4/Marist Poll

Muriel Bowser has eroded Mayor Vincent Gray’s once eight percentage point lead in the race for the Democratic nomination for D.C. mayor.  With a week to go before the primary, among likely Democratic voters including those who are undecided yet leaning toward a candidate and those who voted early or by absentee ballot, Bowser has the support of 28% compared with 26% for Gray.

Click Here for Complete March 26, 2014 NBC4/Marist Poll Release and Tables


“There are two very different paths to victory for Councilwoman Bowser and Mayor Gray,” says Dr. Lee M. Miringoff, Director of The Marist College Institute for Public Opinion.  “Bowser has picked up support among white voters and is the most popular second choice as voters make their final decision.  Gray has a strong base of support among African American voters and greater enthusiasm among his backers.”

Here is how the contest for the Democratic nomination for D.C. mayor stands among likely Democratic primary voters including those who are undecided yet leaning toward a candidate and those who voted early or by absentee ballot:

  • 28% Muriel Bowser
  • 26% Vincent Gray
  • 11% Tommy Wells
  •   9% Jack Evans
  •   4% Andy Shallal
  •   4% Vincent Orange
  •   2% Reta Lewis
  • <1% Carlos Allen
  •   1% other
  • 15% undecided

When the NBC4/Marist Poll reported this question last month, Gray — 28% — was ahead of Bowser — 20% — by eight percentage points among District Democrats likely to vote in the primary.  Evans received 13% of the vote while Wells garnered 12%.  Six percent backed Shallal, and 4% supported Orange.  Lewis had the backing of 3%, and less than 1% of D.C. Democrats were for Allen.  One percent wanted another candidate to receive the party’s nod, and 12% were undecided.

Looking at race, among likely Democratic voters who are African American, Gray — 43% — leads Bowser — 22% — by almost two to one.  Among whites, Bowser — 36% — has the advantage over Wells — 19% — and Evans — 15%.  Only 7% are for Gray.

While Gray maintains his lead over Bowser among African American Democrats likely to vote, Bowser has advanced to the front of the pack among likely Democratic voters who are white.  Last month, 24% of white voters supported Wells, 21% backed Evans, and 18% were behind Bowser.  Gray garnered 10%.  Among African American voters likely to vote, 41% backed Gray while 23% were for Bowser.  55% of likely Democratic voters with a candidate preference including those who voted early or by absentee ballot are strongly committed to their choice of candidate.  30% are somewhat behind their pick while 14% might vote differently.  One percent is unsure.  In the previous NBC4/Marist Poll, 44% of likely Democratic voters expressed a high level of support for their candidate.  36% were somewhat committed to their selection while 19% reported they might cast their ballot differently.  One percent, at that time, was unsure.

Looking at the depth of commitment for the top two candidates, nearly seven in ten of those who are behind Gray — 69% — strongly support him while 49% of likely Democrats for Bowser are firmly in her corner.  Last month, 53% of Gray’s backers were strongly committed to him.  This compares with 50% of Bowser’s supporters who said the same about their candidate.

Who is the second choice of likely Democratic voters with a candidate preference?  With 22%, Bowser takes the top spot followed by Evans with 18% and Wells with 12%.  Gray garners 8%, and another 8% say Orange is their second choice candidate.  Seven percent pick Shallal, 2% cite Lewis, and 1% mentions Allen.  Four percent choose another candidate as their second choice, and 20% are undecided.

In February, 21% selected Bowser as their backup candidate while 18% reported Evans was their second choice.  Wells and Gray each received 12% while 9% said Orange was their second choice.  Seven percent reported Shallal was their second choice candidate while 4% said the same of Lewis. One percent, at that time, selected Allen.  Another 1% believed someone else was their backup candidate, and 15% were undecided.

Are likely Democratic voters enthusiastic about going to the polls on Tuesday?  39% are very enthusiastic and 42% are moderately so. 13% are not too enthusiastic, and six percent are not enthusiastic at all.

Likely Democrats for Gray express more enthusiasm to vote than those for Bowser.  47% of Gray’s supporters are highly enthusiastic.  This compares with 38% of likely Democrats who back Bowser and have a similar level of enthusiasm about going to the polls.

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

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

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. Likely Democratic Voters)

Jobs and Economy Top of Mind for Many D.C. Democrats 

42% of Democrats in the District say, when it comes to deciding their vote, jobs and the economy matter most.  One in four Democrats — 25% — mentions ethics as their motivating factor while 17% report housing is their priority.  Crime is the leading concern of 11% of Democratic voters, and 4% are unsure.

These findings reflect those reported last month.  At that time, more than four in ten Democrats — 44% — reported the economy and jobs were the most important factor in deciding their vote.  Ethics was the leading issue for 22% while another 22% said housing was their priority.  11% of Democrats cited crime as their top concern, and 2% were unsure.

A racial divide still exists.  A majority of Democrats who are African American — 53% — say the economy and jobs are the most influential when deciding their vote.  However, a plurality of white voters — 47% — says ethics are their priority.  Little has changed since last month when 50% of African American Democrats cited the jobs and the economy, and 43% of white Democrats mentioned ethics as their leading issue.

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

Campaign Finance Investigation Hard Hit for Gray? 

From what they know or have heard about the investigation into Mayor Gray’s finances from his 2010 campaign, a majority of Democratic voters — 56% — says they are less likely to vote for Gray.  Only 8% are more likely to support him, and 31% report it makes no difference to their vote.  Five percent are unsure.

These results are similar to those found last month.  At that time, 53% were less likely to back Gray.  Seven percent said they would be more likely to vote for him, and 36% thought the scandal would not impact their vote.  Four percent of Democrats were unsure.

How do D.C. residents, overall, describe Gray’s 2010 campaign activities?  35% think he did something unethical but not illegal.  29% say he was involved in illegal activities, and 14% believe he didn’t do anything wrong.  23% are unsure.  Similar proportions of registered voters agree.

There has been an uptick in the proportion of D.C. residents who believe Gray’s involvement in the scandal included illegal activities.  Last month, 42% of adults in the District said Gray did something unethical but not illegal.  24% believed his involvement was illegal, and 14% thought he did nothing wrong.  20%, at that time, were unsure.

While 36% of D.C. Democrats currently say Gray took part in unethical but not illegal behavior, 30% say he was involved in illegal actions.  16% believe Gray did nothing wrong, and 18% are unsure.  However, in February, 46% called Gray’s involvement unethical while 24% thought something illegal occurred.  15% of Democrats, at that time, said Gray was on the up-and-up, and 15% were 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)

Bowser Stronger Democratic Candidate over Catania in General Election 

In a hypothetical matchup for the general election in November, Bowser, as the Democratic candidate for mayor, has a 20 percentage point advantage against independent candidate David Catania.  46% of registered voters in D.C. say they would vote for Bowser while 26% would support Catania.  28% are undecided.

What do Gray’s general election chances look like if he wins next week’s Democratic primary?  43% of voters would support Gray in November while 37% are for Catania.  20% are undecided.

Looking at race, while Gray — 57% — and Bowser — 54% — each carries a majority of African American voters against Catania, Bowser is the stronger Democratic candidate among whites.  Against Catania, 39% of white voters would back Bowser.  The same proportion — 39% — is for Catania.  However, against Gray, Catania receives 56% of white voters to 24% for Gray.

Table: 2014 Race for D.C. Mayor: Bowser/Catania (D.C. Registered Voters)

Table: 2014 Race for D.C. Mayor: Gray/Catania (D.C. Registered Voters)

Skepticism about Gray 

Only 34% of adults in D.C. say, if Gray receives the Democratic nomination, they definitely plan to vote for him.  40% report they definitely will not vote for him, and 26% are undecided.  Among registered voters in the District, 33% would absolutely cast their ballot for him.  41% would definitely vote against him, and 26% are undecided.

Uncertainty about Gray has increased.  In last month’s NBC4/Marist Poll, more than four in ten D.C. residents — 43% — said they would definitely vote for Gray.  40% would definitely not, and 17% were undecided.  Among registered voters, 42% reported they would back Gray, 42% would cast their ballot for someone else, and 16% were undecided.

Nearly six in ten residents — 59% — think it’s time to elect someone else.  29% believe Gray deserves to be re-elected, and 13% are unsure.  Similar proportions of registered voters share these views.  60% of voters want a change while 27% think Gray should receive a second term.  12% are unsure.

In February, 60% of adults wanted a new mayor to take charge.  31%, however, thought Gray should be re-elected.  Nine percent were unsure.  Among registered voters in the District, 62% said someone new should take the reins of the city.  30% wanted Gray to be re-elected, and 8% were unsure.

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)

Decline in Gray Approval Rating… Fewer with Positive Opinion of Mayor 

Half of D.C. residents — 50% — approve of the job Gray is doing in office.  35% disapprove, and 16% are unsure.  Looking at registered voters, 49% give Gray high marks.  37% think he has fallen short, and 14% are unsure.

There has been a drop in Gray’s approval rating over the last month.  In February, a majority of adults — 56% — thought well of how he was doing his job.  36% disapproved of his performance in office, and 8% were unsure.  Among registered voters, at that time, 55% approved of the mayor’s job performance.  38% disapproved, and 6% were unsure.

Gray’s image has also suffered.  35% have a favorable view of Gray while 47% have an unfavorable opinion of him.  17% have either never heard of him or are unsure how to rate him.  Looking at registered voters, 35% like Gray while 49% have a negative view of the mayor.  16% have either never heard of Gray or are unsure how to rate him.

Last month, 45% of residents had a favorable impression of Gray while 46% had an unfavorable one.  Nine percent had either never heard of Gray or were unsure how to rate him.  Among registered voters, 45% thought well of the mayor, and 48% had a negative opinion of him.  Seven percent had either never heard of Gray or were unsure how to rate him.

Overall, do D.C. residents think the city is moving in the right direction?  Close to two-thirds — 65% — think the District is on course while 21% say it has fallen off track.  14% are unsure.  Similar proportions of registered voters share these opinions.

When this question was last reported, 71% of adults in D.C. said the city was moving in the right direction.  24% reported it was travelling in the wrong one, and 5% were unsure.

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

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

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

How the Survey was Conducted

Nature of the Sample