D.C. voters give Gray low marks in poll

December 22, 2011

D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray continues to get low marks for his running of the city and would be defeated for reelection by either of the city’s two most recent former mayors, according to a poll.

The poll, conducted by Clarus Research Group, shows that more than half of District voters do not approve of the job Gray (D) is doing. Although Gray’s standing has ticked up slightly since a Clarus survey in March, just 34 percent of voters approve of his performance.

The survey paints a bleak picture for the first-year mayor and the D.C. Council as they battle several ethical controversies and federal investigations.

Thirty percent of voters approve of the council while 55 percent have a negative view, a reversal of its ratings since the March survey.

A little more than a year ago, Gray defeated former Mayor Adrian M. Fenty after receiving 55 percent of the vote in the September 2010 Democratic primary.


Vincent Gray signs campain posters near an early voting center during the 2010 election. A new poll says Gray would lose a matchup against former mayors Anthony Williams or Adrian Fenty. (Photo by Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post) (Jahi Chikwendiu)

But if District Democrats today were asked to choose between Gray and Fenty, the former mayor would defeat the incumbent by 15 percentage points. Fenty’s margin grows to 21 points when non-Democrats are included in the survey, according to the poll.

“The mayor’s first year in office has been a political disaster,” said Ron Faucheux, president of Clarus.

In the survey of 500 voters, taken Sunday through Wednesday, Clarus also pitted Gray against former mayor Anthony Williams (D). Williams, who was in office from 1999 until 2007, would also defeat Gray by 15 points if an election were held today.

In an interview Thursday, Gray acknowledged missteps but said he is proud of his record, including improving city finances, boosting economic development and reducing homicides.

“It’s our job to get out there and help people understand exactly what we’ve done,” Gray said.

“We hope everyone will listen to the message and hear the message, because there is an awful lot that has been done.”

In the hypothetical matchups, Fenty or Williams would dominate among white voters, defeating Gray by more than 60 percentage points. Gray maintains an edge among African American voters, but his standing has declined dramatically among blacks since the 2010 race.

Gray leads Fenty among black voters, 45 percent to 31 percent. But Gray’s overall disapproval rating among all voters has increased by 13 percentage points since the March survey.

Neither Fenty nor Williams has publicly expressed a desire to reclaim the mayor’s office.

Heading into his second year in office, Gray remains stronger politically than D.C. Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown (D) and the rest of the city’s legislative body.

Only 23 percent of District voters approve of Brown’s job performance, compared with 57 percent who disapprove.

“We will continue to double up our efforts to make sure we communicate what’s being done in this city,” said Brown, who is trying to recover politically from his request for a taxpayer-funded luxury sport-utility vehicle.

According to the survey, a few District public officials remain popular with voters.

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), who is up for reelection in 2012, has a 77 percent approval rating, close to Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier’s 78 percent rating.

About half of District voters also approve of schools chief Kaya Henderson.

Tim Craig is The Post’s bureau chief in Pakistan. He has also covered conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and within the District of Columbia government.
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