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A new survey shows Mayor Adrian M. Fenty behind in key head-to-head re-election matchups. The new data comes on the heels of a Clarus Research Group poll released last week that showed similar results.

The Clarus poll had Fenty trailing D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray, 41 to 37 percent. The new survey of 500 registered voters, commissioned and financed by Metropolitan Washington Labor Council AFL-CIO, reinforces that finding, with Gray leading 43 to 39, just outside the poll’s 3.9 percent margin of error.

Moreover, on the question of whether Fenty “deserves re-election,” only 36 percent agreed. Fifty-one percent want someone new.

The survey, conducted by veteran local pollster Ron Lester, also tested a number of other head-to-head contests:

  • Against At-Large Councilmember Kwame Brown in a clear field, Fenty is behind is ahead 42 to 40 percent, a statistical tie
  • Against megadeveloper R. Donahue Peebles, however, Fenty runs well ahead, 51 percent to 21.
  • Against independent councilmember Michael A. Brown in a general-election matchup, Fenty runs ahead 44 percent to 37.

“I think the most significant finding is the mayor’s low re-elect number,” Lester says. “That’s a bad position for an incumbent to be in.”

The unions also polled on the Democratic at-large council race. In that contest, incumbent Phil Mendelson runs well ahead with 34 percent support; declared opponent Clark Ray takes only 10 percent. Lester also tested former school board member, Williams administration official, and minister Carolyn Graham, who is said to be exploring a run; she received 15 percent support. A hefty 40 percent remain undecided.

The poll also tested voter favorability on key figures. A report on the poll results says that “Fenty’s electoral prospects are hampered by high unfavorable ratings,” with 51 percent viewing Fenty favorably and 40 percent unfavorably. Gray has an identical 51 percent favorable rating, but his unfavorable numbers are much lower, at 14 percent. Also note that the polling was done between Nov. 22 and 29, after Gray’s unfavorable headlines.


  • Kwame Brown runs 50 percent favorable to 12 percent unfavorable.
  • Michael Brown runs 32 percent favorable to 15 percent unfavorable.
  • Mendelson runs 41 percent favorable to 10 percent unfavorable.

“Job approval” for Gray and the council writ large were also tested. Gray won 59 percent approval marks, with 12 percent disapproving. The council won 58 percent approval versus 25 percent disapproval. Fenty’s approval numbers run close, 46 to 44 percent.

And on the issues, poll participants rank “improving education” (41 percent) as their top issue, with “reducing crime and making the streets safer” (19 percent) and “working to improve the economy and create jobs” (14 percent) close behind. Coupled with Fenty’s low re-elect figure, the fact that education, Fenty’s signature issue, appears as a top voter priority would stand indicate some dissatisfaction with how he’s handled the issue.

In terms of caveats: The poll’s financier, the Metro Labor Council, is notably invested in a Fenty defeat, having clashed with Hizzoner on issue after issue. The poll tested registered voters, without any screening for their likelihood of actually submitting a ballot. And LL has not obtained either verbatim questions or demographic/geographic breakdowns on the results. Lester does claim that blacks represented 53 percent of the sample, with whites at 37 percent and “others” at 10 percent—-a fairly close track to the citywide electorate’s numbers.

UPDATE, 11 A.M.: LL mistakenly reported that Kwame Brown led Fenty in a head-to-head matchup, 42 to 40 percent. Actually, Fenty led Brown by those numbers, which are within the margin of error. Mea culpa.