Only I of every 3 Democrats who said they voted for Mayor Walter E. Washington in his 1974 victory over Clifford L. Alexander would vote for Washington today, according to a voter survey conducted by The Washington Post.
The survey found City Council Chairman Sterling Tucker to be the overwhelming favorite for mayor next year over Washington and Council member Marion Barry among those interviewed.
The poil was taken among those "hard core" voters who went to the polls Nov. 8, and is thus more a rough guide to the feelings of a select segment of the electorate than an indicator of the sentiment of all those who might vote in the Sept. 12, 1978, Democratic mayoral primary.
The poll of 932 persons was taken at 12 precincts in six of the city's eight wards during the Nov. 8 election.
There was no respondents from ward six (the Capitol Hill and near north east area of the city) and Ward eight (the Anacostia part of southeast Washington)
In addition to a strong preference for Tucker, the survey indicated that Walter Washington had only weak to moderate support among senior citizens, whom many city political observers generally believe are among Washington's strongest supporters.
Faced with a choice between Tucker, Barry and Washington , who are the most frequently discussed 1978 Democratic mayoral hopefuls, 39 per cent of all those interviewed said the favored Tucker; 23 per cent were for Barry, and 20 per cent for Washington. The remaining 18 per cent said they were either undecided or would not vote.
When those surveyed were asked how they would vote in two-way races of Tucker and Barry or Tucker and Washington, Tucker's support increased. Tucker was a 60 per cent to 24 per cent choice over Washington, and a 54 per cent to 29 per cent favorite over Barry, with the remainder in each race either undecided or not voting.
Against Barry alone, Mayor Washington got 34 per cent, as compared to 47 per cent for Barry.
Despite its limitations, the poll was the first publicly released survey on voter preference involving the three, not one of whom has formally announced intentions to run, but all of whom are strongly expected to vie for the office. It met with expected reactions by the three camps.
Tucker, whose supporters have said several times over the past months is the front-runner, was "pleased" with the results, according to spokeman Alan Grip. "Sterling thinks it appears to show public confidence in him and because of the side of it, it's a good sample," Grip said.
Barry said he thought the poll had too small a sample and was taken too far away from election day to be revealing of his own position. "The school board race is not an indication of the mayor's race. I'm not disturbed by it (the poll).I'm not shocked by it. I'm not upset by it. I'm on course," Barry said.
Mayor Washington, whose apparent loss of support appeared to be one of major findings of the survey, was brief in his comments. "In my experience," the mayor said through spokesman Sam Eastman, "the only poll that counts is the one expressed by the voters on election day, and if I do choose to run, I intend to win."
The mayor's limited support was very apparent in the hypothetical three-way race. Even though the samples from the six ward were small, in no case did Washington get the most votes and in most instances ran about 20 or more percentage points behind Tucker and somewhat behind or nearly even with Barry.
"Among the 118 persons surveyed who were 61 years and older, 44 per cent for Barry. In head-on races, Tucker outpolled the mayor among senior citizens by a 5-to-3 margin, white in a Tucker-Washington race, the senior citizen vote was almost evenly split.
In most instances, suport for the mayor was strongest among lower-in-come persons and those who indicated that their education ended between the 9th and 12th grades. In the three way contest, Washington received 45 per cent of the support of those who had not completed high school and 43 per cent of the support of those who said they earned $7,000 a year or less.
The mayor was consistently the least popular candidate among whites, who made up 39 per cent of those interviewed. Washington received 16 per cent of the white vote in a three way contest, 20 per cent against Tucker alone and 30 per cent against Barry alone.
The support for Tucker was strong in most parts of the city and in just about all age, income, educational and racial groups. One of every 3 persons who supported Washington in 1974, and 1 of every 2 who supported Alexander said they would now vote for Tucker.
The poll indicated that Barry's effort to broaden his base from the low-income, mostly black residents who had traditionally supported the former community activist was sucessful.
More than half of those who chose Barry in the three-way race where white, and in general, preference for Barry tended to go up among respondents as annual income and education increased.
Barry said he did not feel he has lost his tradional base among blacks, however. "I know I've always been able to communicate with low and moderate-income blacks and all I have to do is get out here and show them my program. I haven't lost a thing," he said.
The survey found no significant preference for any other candidate. The most frequently mentioned was Clifford Alexander, now the secretary of the Army, who was choice in 41 instances, perhaps because his name was already on the self-administered questionaire. The next two most frequently mentioned were former City Council Chairman John Hechinger and City Council member Doulgas E. Moore, an announced candidate for Council chairman in 1978. Each received 12 votes.
In the context of the preliminary maneuvering already going on among Barry, Tucker and Washington, the polls appeared to indicate the Tucker's primary challenge will be to hold onto the lead he apparently has: Barry will have to continue to build support, and Washington must regain backers he has lost during his three years in office.
All three seem to be generally following the respective courses that such an analysis would suggest. Tucker has maintained a very low profile effort, while Barry has come closer to declaring a formal candidacy than any of the other two.
While still keeping his intentions closely guarded, the mayor in recent weeks has begun a stepped-up high visibility schedule of public maneuvering.
Generally speaking, and perhaps because of the nature of the Nov. 8 election in which the poll was taken respondents were of somewhat higher income and education levels than the overall city voting-age population.
The locations for the polling were Guy Mason Recreation Center, St. Columbia's Episcopal church, H.D. Cooke Flementery School, Lafyette Elementary School, Coolidge High School, Nativity Catholic School, Shepherd Elementary School, Backus Junior High School, Monastery Pilgrimmage hall, Davis Elementary School, Stanton Elementary School and Spyhax ElementarySchool.