The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Most Americans say no statehood for the District of Columbia, poll shows

Signs supporting D.C. statehood outside an early voting location in 2016. A majority of D.C. voters back statehood for their city, but a Gallup poll released Monday found a majority of Americans are opposed to the idea.
Signs supporting D.C. statehood outside an early voting location in 2016. A majority of D.C. voters back statehood for their city, but a Gallup poll released Monday found a majority of Americans are opposed to the idea. (Susan Walsh/AP)

A majority of Americans oppose making the District the 51st state, according to a new poll released Monday.

The Gallup poll found a clear majority of 64 percent don’t think the nation’s capital should attain statehood, compared to 29 percent who support the idea.

The poll comes as Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District’s nonvoting delegate, and city officials have been trying to build national support for statehood, framing it as a civil rights issue and arguing that the city’s 700,000 residents are disenfranchised because they lack voting representation in Congress.

Norton said the poll is valuable because it shows that most Americans are unaware that District residents lack representation in Congress.

She noted that the poll did not include the fact that D.C. residents pay the highest federal taxes per capita in the nation. “Yet every American agrees that taxation without representation, which led to the creation of our nation, is wrong,” she said in a statement Monday.

“The Founders, who went to war because they paid taxes without representation, did not intend for 700,000 taxpaying American citizens in the capital they created to be the only Americans left without a voice in their own national legislature,” Norton said. “ Taxation Without Representation was the rallying cry that founded this nation. It was unjust in 1776 and it still is in 2019.”

Norton has garnered a record number of co-sponsors, over 200, for legislation that converts most of the city into a state. A Senate version of the bill, introduced by Sen. Thomas R. Carper (D-Del.), has 33 co-sponsors.

The House Oversight Committee was set to hold a hearing on July 24 on D.C. statehood — the first House hearing on the issue in a quarter century — but Norton said Saturday it will be postponed until the fall, so as not to conflict with congressional testimony on the same day from former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

With Democrats in control of the House, statehood has had something of a moment, despite its lack of support in the GOP-controlled Senate.

The House passed a sweeping package of goals and values, including D.C. statehood, marking the first time in a generation that House leadership endorsed the issue.

At the same time, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) issued a lengthy statement in support of the cause and House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) followed suit.

Many candidates vying for the 2020 presidential nomination, including members of Congress, say they support statehood, too.

Gallup polled 1,018 adults in all 50 states and D.C. from June 19 to 30 on cellphones and landlines. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

The results of Gallup’s single question on statehood are in line with a 2006 Washington Post poll. That survey found 58 percent were opposed and 22 percent favored the idea, while 18 percent had no opinion.

However, when asked about specific rights that statehood would extend to District residents, Americans appear more amenable.

In 2007, a Post poll found a 61 percent majority of Americans supported giving D.C. a voting delegate, meaning a member of Congress who would have the same voting rights as their fellow lawmakers. Norton has a floor vote only when Democrats control the House, but she’s stripped of the right in instances when her vote could decide the outcome.

Roughly 6 in 10 Americans across the political spectrum supported full voting rights for the District, the 2007 poll found.

Support for statehood is much higher among D.C. residents, according to a 2015 Washington Post poll.

That survey found 67 percent of District residents favored D.C. becoming a separate state, up from 56 percent in 2010 and the highest in Post polling since 1993.

The same poll found 74 percent saying they are upset that District residents do not have a voting representative in Congress; about half were very upset about it.

A 71 percent majority said Congress has too much control over the city’s affairs.

Congress has the final say over laws passed by the D.C. Council and the mayor, setting up frequent showdowns between local elected officials and members of Congress.

The city’s liberal lawmakers say conservative federal lawmakers have used the District to fight proxy battles over contentious issues such as abortion for low-income women, legal marijuana and assisted suicide.

What Democratic control of the House means for D.C. statehood

Drain the swamp? No, let’s just move it, Rep. Chaffetz suggests.

Local newsletters: Local headlines (8 a.m.) | Afternoon Buzz (4 p.m.)

Like PostLocal on Facebook | Follow @postlocal on Twitter | Latest local news