A record number of D.C. residents want to see the District become a state, according to a new Washington Post poll.
Nearly 3 in 4 residents say they are upset that the District has no voting representation in Congress, and about half describe themselves as “very upset” over the absence.
Federal intervention in District affairs also proved to be an issue for many residents. D.C. laws and budgets are subject to congressional approval, a process that has thwarted local legislation on issues such as reproductive rights and the use of marijuana.
More than 7 in 10 residents say Congress has too much control over the internal affairs of the nation’s capital, up from 66 percent in 2011. Sixty-seven percent of District residents said they would support statehood for D.C., a city of 650,000 people.
“I think if we were a state, we would have more voice and more authority in certain issues,” said Silvia Murillo, a longtime resident of Adams Morgan. Murillo, who works as a dog walker, said she is frustrated by the city’s skyrocketing real estate prices and growing crime problem. If D.C. had representation, she said, it might be better able to take on those challenges.
The Post poll finds that 67 percent of residents favor the District becoming a state, including 71 percent of registered voters, an increase of 10 percentage points from 2010. Majorities have supported statehood in surveys since the 1990s, but the latest poll finds support one point above the previous record in 2002, the year after the city government regained powers from a federal financial control board.
But support for statehood is still largely a white-collar priority. And only 2 percent of poll respondents rank self-governorship for the District as the city’s top problem.
Supporters of the measure are more likely to be wealthy, highly educated and white, according to the Post poll.
Nearly 8 in 10 residents who make more than $100,000 a year say they would support statehood for the District. The same was true for residents who hold a postgraduate degree.
But for residents who make less than $50,000, or who didn’t graduate from high school, sentiments were split. In both cases, just over half support statehood.
For Sara Hoffman, 33, a Web traffic analyst, the purchase of a house in Northeast was the move that transformed her support for D.C. statehood into a deeper commitment and interest in the issue.
“Once I really became a homeowner here is when I became more completely invested,” she said. “This is where I’m going to be for an extended period of time, [and knowing that] is when I really wanted to be involved,” she said.
For others, the ambition of statehood falls behind a range of issues that seem more urgent, such as housing and security. And to some, the goal just seems inaccessible.
Helen Hill, 78, says she climbs into bed every night in Southeast thinking about the homeless people she sees outside on the street. “I think of those people sleeping in 30- or 40-degree weather, and some of them sleeping on plastic bags,” she said. The District’s growing homelessness problem feels so urgent to Hill that it’s her top concern, she said. After that, her biggest worry is crime. Statehood is something she believes in, she said — it’s just far less urgent.
Bracey Bullock, 80, a veteran and a lifelong Washingtonian who lives in Northeast, called the city’s lack of representation “one of the weirdest situations in the world.”
“We don’t have any freedom,” he said. “A congressman has more say-so [in District law] than he does in his state.” But he sees no point in trying to change it.
Congressional control is written into the Constitution, and an amendment would require a two-thirds majority vote in Congress. “And let’s think about it,” he said. “They don’t want it to be approved.”
The District is an overwhelmingly Democratic-leaning city, and congressional Republicans, statehood’s proponents say, are unwilling to back a measure that would produce more Democratic votes on Capitol Hill. And it’s that political obstacle that has led the city’s handful of statehood advocacy groups, such as D.C. Vote, to focus their attention outside of the District.
“Our challenge isn’t in D.C. — D.C. residents are behind this,” said Kimberly Perry, D.C. Vote’s executive director. “Our biggest obstacle is people not knowing across the country.”
D.C. Vote’s leaders say that if they can educate residents of other states about the District’s lack of representation, those constituents will pressure their elected representatives.
Although the poll finds that white residents are 20 points more supportive of statehood than African Americans, education is an equalizer on the issue. Black college graduates are slightly more supportive (81 percent) of statehood than college-educated whites (76 percent).
The Washington Post poll was conducted Nov. 12 to 15 among a random sample of 1,005 adult District residents reached on conventional and cellular phones. The margin of sampling error for overall results is plus or minus four percentage points.