FORGET DEMOCRATS and Republicans. When thinking about politics in the District of Columbia this year, think Homebodies and Bureaucracy-Bashers, Vice Squad and Budget Slashers. And, for that matter, Healers.
That's how the District electorate is really made up, according to a statistical dissection of the body politic and an analysis of the issues around which the city's major voting constituencies are built.
This journey into the recesses of the voters' minds turned up other surprises lurking just beneath the conventional wisdom.
First, District voters remain hugely troubled by the city's drug and crime problems. But those aren't the issues that matter the most to the largest chunk of the electorate. Housing and jobs, not crime and drugs, are on the minds of a plurality -- albeit a small one -- of city voters. Yes, many voters are angry at city hall. But this anger comes in three distinctly different varieties. One bloc demands that city government cut waste and increase efficiency but isn't particularly inclined to trim the municipal workforce. A second would slash the perceived deadwood from the bureaucracy and worries about the city's image. A third wants to cut property taxes but not reduce government services.
Second, most voters also want the next mayor to heal this racially troubled city. But even the most eloquent pleas for racial harmony aren't likely to win many votes in the fall. In fact, only about 6 percent of the electorate rates bridging the racial divide as an issue of overriding importance.
To determine who cares about what in District politics, The Washington Post analyzed the responses of 895 registered District voters. They were asked to determine which of 11 frequently mentioned city problems were of most concern.
The list included: drugs, crime, race relations, waste in government, property taxes, the unbalanced city budget, the image of city government, lack of affordable housing, jobs and underemployment, neighborhood revitalization, cutting the bureaucracy.
A statistical technique called factor analysis was used to divide the electorate into smaller constituencies united by their views on particular issues. The results yielded three major factors and three smaller ones -- call them "factorettes" -- that together generally described the thinking of about 70 percent of the electorate. These are the six groups: Homebodies : These voters represent about 25 percent of the electorate, the single largest voting bloc in the city. Affordable housing and neighborhood revitalization rank as the top concerns of this group. Also near the top: jobs.
While they seek an activist government, these voters are motivated chiefly by their pocketbooks; "social conscience" problems of drugs, crime and race relations are of secondary importance. Likewise, this group places less importance on purely fiscal issues such as balancing the city's bright-red budget and slimming down the bureaucracy.
As a group, they are less well educated and less affluent than the average District voter: More than half have family incomes of less than $30,000 a year, whereas only a third of all District voters have incomes in that range.
Blacks and women are disproportionally represented among Homebodies; nine out of 10 are black, and six out of 10 are women.
This group contains many of Marion Barry's truest believers. Half say they plan to support the mayor's bid for an at-large seat on the council in the November general election. By contrast, fewer than one out of three of all voters interviewed said they planned to vote for Barry. The Vice Squad : These voters make up about 12 percent of the electorate. Drugs and crime, the twin terrors of the late 1980s, overwhelm all other issues for this group.
They're pro-government, and among the least likely to want their next mayor to cut the property tax rate or to trim the city payroll.
Vice Squad voters are somewhat more likely to be white and Republican than the District electorate. Still, about two out of three are black and eight out of 10 are Democrats, suggesting that anxiety over the city's crime and drug problems remain, along with the Redskins, one of the few unifying forces in the District.
These voters live in all parts of the city. They are more affluent than the average voter: Over 60 percent live in households earning more than $30,000 a year. Budget Slashers : These voters make up about 11 percent of the electorate. Their chief interests are a balanced city budget and lower property taxes. Yet they are not anti-city hall. They aren't more likely than the average voter to see government waste or inefficiency as a top priority, nor do they particularly want the next mayor to radically cut the city payroll.
This group, too, isn't particularly passionate about social issues. Like most residents, they see drugs and crime as big problems. But neither concern is consistently near the top of the short list of issues they want the next mayor to address first. A disproportionate number of them are black and/or registered Democrats; black Budget Slashers tend to be more upscale than Homebodies. Bureaucracy Bashers : About 8 percent of all District voters fall into this constituency. Actually, this group is a subspecies of Budget Slashers, but they're less interested in the fiscal mechanics of government.
The 'Bashers desperately want to see the fat trimmed from the city payroll. They also are far more likely than any other group to care passionately about the city's repuatation and image.
This group includes a somewhat higher percentage of whites and males than the District electorate as a whole. Yet blacks remain the big majority of this group. Bureaucracy Bashers are disproportionately concentrated in Northwest Washington, while relatively scarce in Southwest. And they're older: More than a third are over 60, compared to about one out of five voters as a whole. Waste Managers : Again, about 8 percent of the electorate. And again, this group is a variation on an anti-city hall theme.
Waste managers are eager to attack the city's waste and inefficiency and, to a lesser degree, want a balanced city budget. Yet they are surprisingly less interested in trimming the city payroll.
They're the best educated of any of the five groups: six out of 10 have been to college. A disproportionately large number of Waste Managers -- about a third -- are white. The Healers : About 7 percent of the electorate, these voters regard improved race relations as the single most important issue.
The demographics of this group closely match those of the city in most ways; its members live in all areas. They are, however, somewhat better educated than the average city voter. What, then, does all this mean for Tuesday's primary? Perhaps little. The primary campaigns have been drab, issueless affairs played out in the shadow of Marion Barry's drug-and-perjury trial.
Two weeks ago, when the Post poll was taken -- a virtual lifetime at this stage of the campaign -- only about one out of five voters said they were basing their choice in the Democratic mayoral primary on the issues. The rest said their votes would be based on personal characteristics and past records.
When the poll was taken, John Ray held leads of varying sizes in each of the six issues constituencies, followed by Charlene Drew Jarvis and then by David Clarke, Walter Fauntroy and Sharon Pratt Dixon. But Ray's lead was marshmallow soft, particularly among the District's biggest voter block, the Homebodies, a group in which Fauntroy enjoys particular strength.
Ray's advantage was also wide but shallow among whites in the three anti-city hall groups -- Budget Slashers, Bureaucracy Bashers and Waste Managers. In fact, among these voters, Clarke was running even with Ray. Among white Homebodies and Vice Squad voters, Dixon and Ray were deadlocked.
There were reports last week that support for Dixon has surged following her recent endorsement by The Washington Post. If so, it's a fairly good bet that many of these converts were anti-government Ray, Clarke and Jarvis voters -- evidence that even in this low-impact campaign, issues may matter.
Richard Morin is The Washington Post's director of polling. Senior polling analyst Sharon Warden contributed to this report.