Though District voters say Mayor Fenty has achieved a lot and see their city moving in the right direction, those most likely to vote in the upcoming Democratic primary favor his opponent Vincent Gray by 17 points, according to the new Washington Post poll. While much has been written about this paradox, a few crosstabs shed light on this apparent inconsistency.
Voters typically say issues matter most, but in the new poll, nearly four in 10 say "personal qualities" are as or more important than issues when it comes to determining their votes. It's a distinction that matters: among so-called issue voters, Fenty and Gray run about evenly, 44 to 41 percent, while Gray swamps Fenty among those prioritizing the candidates' personal qualities, 64 to 22 percent.
Among blacks, 74 percent who say personal qualities are as or more important than issues support Gray, up 17 points from those who prioritize the issues. And a full three in four white Democrats who prioritize issues pick Fenty, compared with 64 percent of white Democrats overall.
Put simply, style and personal qualities give the chairman the edge in this race. Overall, fully 61 percent of Democratic voters say Gray understands their problems, compared with 45 percent for Fenty. Even more, 71 percent, say Gray is willing to listen to different points of view. Only 44 percent of Democrats say the same about the incumbent.
Q. Thinking about the race for mayor, which is more important to you in choosing a candidate for Mayor, (their personal qualities such as leadership style) or (their positions on specific issues)?
Personal Positions Both No qualities on issues (vol.) opinion Democrats 25 61 13 2
Among Registered Democrats Fenty Gray Personal qualities/both 22 64 Positions on issues 44 41
Among blacks Fenty Gray Personal qualities/both 14 74 Positions on issues 23 57