Take a Number: Gray has summoned a long list of witnesses for lottery contract hearing. Credit: Darrow Montgomery

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Adrian M. Fenty’s vulnerability in next year’s election, here you go: A poll of 501 registered voters finds that D.C. Council Chairman Vincent Gray leads Fenty, 41 to 37 percent, in the first publicly released head-to-head polling. Asked whether they approve or disapprove of Fenty, poll respondents were negative on Fenty, 49 percent to 43.

The poll was done by the nonpartisan and nonaffiliated Clarus Research Group “as a public service” and was conducted by live interviewers. Clarus puts the margin of error at 4.4 percent.

Besides the head-to-head with Gray, Clarus polled registered Democrats on a wider field that included at-large councilmembers Kwame Brown and Michael Brown. Among that field, Fenty was the plurality choice with 34 percent; Gray followed with 24 percent, then Kwame Brown with 13 and Michael Brown with 6.

The pollers asked if respondents would like to see Fenty re-elected or someone new—-34 percent said they’d vote to re-elect. The numbers are striking when you note the poll’s issue-by-issue assessments of Fenty. On bread-and-butter issues like keeping streets clean and crime down, Fenty won approval from more than half of voters. He got his worst marks, of 30 percent or lower, on “handling city finances”; “bringing people together to solve problems”; and “putting the city’s interest above politics.”

Caveats: Biggest one is that this is a poll of registered voters, not likely voters (likelihood is typically screened through a respondent’s voting record in prior elections). The second biggest one is that the polling was done prior to last week’s ugly headlines for Gray. And, of course, Gray hasn’t declared his candidacy, making this an academic exercise.

Some other tidbits:

—-The poll also took approval numbers on Gray, Police Chief Cathy Lanier, and Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee. Lanier won a 71 percent approval rating, with only 12 percent disapproving. Rhee, polarizing figure she is, won approval from 47 percent of voters; 39 percent disapproved. And Gray won 46 percent approval, with a whopping 38 percent not knowing enough about him to render an opinion.

—-The racial/generational divide continues to emerge: “Fenty scores highest among whites (60 percent), voters under 50 years old (51 percent approval), and those who live in Wards 2 and 3 (60 percent). Fenty’s job approval is lowest among voters over 50 (35 percent) and African Americans (29 percent). His support is weakest in the area comprising Wards 6, 7 and 8 where his job approval is 33 percent. Fenty is much stronger among white women (64 percent) than African American women (28 percent).” Moreover: “Fifty-one percent of all white voters polled said they would like to see Fenty re-elected but only 22 percent of all African American voters polled would – a 29–point difference.”

—-Says Clarus pollster Ron Faucheux in press release: “Mayor Fenty’s re-election base is dangerously weak for an incumbent going into an election year….While the mayor still has the time and resources to shore up his re-election prospects before the September primary, he clearly has plenty of work to do to win back voters he’s lost since the last election.”

Here’s the poll questions, with results:

I am now going to read you a list of local public officials. Please tell me whether you approve or disapprove of the job each is doing. If I read a name you have never heard of, just say so.

  APPROVE DISAPPROVE NEVER HEARD/DK
Mayor Adrian Fenty 43% 49% 8%
Council Chairman Vincent Gray 46 16 38
Police Chief Cathy Lanier 71 12 17
Education Chancellor Michelle Rhee 47 39 14

The District of Columbia will have an election for Mayor next year. At this point, would you like to see Mayor Adrian Fenty re-elected or would you like to see somebody new get elected?

Fenty re-elected 34%
Somebody new 53
Depends on who runs (volunteered) 6
Don’t know/no answer (volunteered) 7

Now, please tell me whether you approve or disapprove of the way Mayor Adrian Fenty is handling the following issues…

  APPROVE DISAPPROVE
Keeping streets and public places clean and in good repair 68% 24%
Handling city finances 28 58
Bringing people together to solve problems 27 57
Managing city government 39 51
Living up to high standards of ethics 35 50
Keeping in touch with average citizens 42 46
Holding down city taxes 44 37
Providing strong leadership 40 50
Protecting the city against crime and violence 54 36
Putting the city’s interest above politics 30 57
Working to bring new jobs to the city 41 37
Improving public education 43 40

[The next two questions were asked only of Democrats and independents who lean Democratic]

As you may know Washington D.C. will have a mayor’s election next year. If the candidates for the Democratic nomination were (ROTATE) Kwame Brown, Adrian Fenty, Vincent Gray and Michael Brown, which one would you most likely vote for?

Fenty 34%
Gray 24
KWAME Brown 13
MICHAEL Brown 6
Undecided, don’t know 23

If the election for mayor was between (ROTATE) Adrian Fenty and Vincent Gray, which one would you most likely vote for?

Fenty 37%
Gray 41
Undecided, don’t know 22

Photo by Darrow Montgomery