Muriel Bowser, at left, remains ahead of David Catania and Carol Schwartz in the race for D.C. mayor.

Muriel Bowser, at left, remains ahead of David Catania and Carol Schwartz in the race for D.C. mayor.

A week before Election Day, a new poll commissioned by The Kojo Nnamdi Show and Washington City Paper identifies clear front-runners in the race for D.C. mayor and attorney general. It also reveals locals’ views about about politics, arts and culture in the District. We dig into the findings.


  • Mike Madden Managing Editor, Washington City Paper

Full Poll Results

Explore our poll results by selecting a question from the list on the left, or graphing two questions (see below) to compare their relationships. The poll was conducted Oct. 20-22, 2014 by Public Policy Polling for Washington City Paper and the Kojo Nnamdi Show. It surveyed 591 likely D.C. voters, 80 percent by automated call to landline phones and 20 percent by online poll of cell phone-only residents. The margin of error is plus or minus four percentage points. Note that the margin of error on the combined graphs may be substantially higher than on the main questions, especially for any charts that involve very small subgroups.


  • 12:06:39

    MS. JEN GOLBECKFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world, I'm Jenn Golbeck from the University of Maryland, sitting in for Kojo.

  • 12:06:58

    MS. JEN GOLBECKLater in the broadcast, "Station Eleven," a new novel about life in a dystopian future, we'll talk to author Emily St. John Mandel. But first, a snapshot of politics and culture in D.C. "The Kojo Nnamdi Show/Washington City Paper Poll." When District voters head to the polls next Tuesday, they'll choose candidates for mayor, attorney general and council races.

  • 12:07:19

    MS. JEN GOLBECKBut they'll also chart the Districts course on legalized marijuana. Ballot Initiative 71 appears likely to pass, according to our new poll which surveyed 591 likely voters, 52 percent said they support the measure to legalize possession of up to two ounces of the drug.

  • 12:07:35

    MS. JEN GOLBECKThe poll also survey's local attitudes about topics a little further off the beaten path, asking locals whether they support a D.C. Olympic bid in 2014 and whether local media organizations should stick their noses into debates about the name of a certain professional football team. Washington City Paper editor, Mike Madden, joins us to explore what we've found, it's good to have you here, Mike.

  • 12:07:57

    MR. MIKE MADDENGood to be here, thanks for having me.

  • 12:07:58

    GOLBECKIf you'd like to join us, you can call, 1-800-433-8850 or send us an email to Mike, last week, we asked 591 likely voters about how they plan to vote next week in the race for mayor and attorney general, but we also asked about Initiative 71, which would legalize possession of, up to two ounces, of marijuana, for people over the age of 21. What do we know about the prospects of it passing and attitudes about marijuana more broadly?

  • 12:08:29

    MADDENWell, it looks pretty likely to pass. I mean, as you said, our poll found 52 percent support for it, 13 percent undecided, 35 percent people opposed. That's a pretty good, that's a pretty good indication for the people that want that initiative. You know, it seems unlikely that the No vote is gonna make up that much ground, if this poll's right.

  • 12:08:49

    GOLBECKAnd I should add here that this was an automated poll of likely voters conducted by public policy polling, that had a margin of error of four percent.

  • 12:08:58

    MADDENThat's right.

  • 12:08:59

    GOLBECKWithin D.C. politics, issues of race and class are never a very far from the surface of policy debates and that seems to be the case when it comes to marijuana debates. What kind of patterns did we find, broken down by a black and white voters?

  • 12:09:12

    MADDENWell, that's right, you know, the -- a far larger share of white voters wanted to legalize marijuana than black voters. We found 58 percent of white voters planned to vote Yes on Initiative 71. Excuse me, and 28 percent No among black voters. It was much closer. It was still a plurality of black voters support that initiative but it was 48 to 43 percent in favor, which, you know, given the rhetoric about the initiative has focused so heavily on, sort of, the racial disparities and how marijuana laws are enforced in D.C.

  • 12:09:47

    MADDENThat is a little bit surprising, you know, the people who sponsored the initiative talk a lot about how this would ease racial justice, but that message doesn't appear to be resonating along racial lines, necessarily.

  • 12:09:59

    GOLBECKYeah, it's one of several, I think, surprising results that we found in this poll and we'll hit a few more of those later on. You can check out the entire poll on our website,, where you can also play with the cross tabs on an interactive graphic. So as I said, there were some results on this poll that were surprising, one in particular focused on the possibility of D.C. hosting the summer Olympics in 2014, which seems to enjoy popular support.

  • 12:10:24

    MADDENYeah, that -- the split there is almost identical to the marijuana legalization vote, which depending on what you think about the Olympics, may make you wonder, you know, what it is that's making people want to support the Olympics. But you had 51 percent of likely voters saying they would support D.C. hosting the Olympics, 35 percent against and 14 percent not sure.

  • 12:10:44

    MADDENAnd this one, I thought, broke down on interesting geographic lines. You know, the areas where the Olympics had the most support were in Ward 7 and 8, according to our poll, which are the areas where the largest amount of Olympic related construction is likely to be, based on, sort of, the plans that have been out there so far. Now, the caveat with all of these cross tabs should be that the margin of error goes up significantly for the smaller -- for the cross tabs. Just...

  • 12:11:11


  • 12:11:11

    MADDEN...because the populations are smaller. So it's a smaller sample that may or may not be as representative as the poll as a whole but, you know, based on what we found, it seems as though people all over the city are interested in hosting the Olympics but especially in the neighbor -- near the neighborhoods where the Olympics might actually be, if we hosted it.

  • 12:11:31

    GOLBECKAnd I have to clarify, I called those the 2014 Olympics which would be a lot of fast building, so we're talking about 2024 here.

  • 12:11:38


  • 12:11:38

    GOLBECKOne of the thorniest questions facing sports fans and media organizations resolves around our professional football team, the Redskins, which some considered to be an offensive slur against Native-Americans. I can use the name on the air because WAMU and NPR's editorial guidelines in the matter say we can use the name when we talk about the controversy itself. Your paper, by contrast, doesn't use the name at all. We asked two questions about the controversy, what did D.C. voters think?

  • 12:12:04

    MADDENFifty-three percent of likely voters said they thought the name was disparaging to Native-Americans, 37 percent say they think it's not offensive and 10 percent weren't sure, which is -- it's a slightly different result then some of the polls the team likes to taut, which tends to show that, you know, most people don't think it's a problem at all.

  • 12:12:22

    MADDENNow, this is just D.C. likely voters, so it may be a smaller population, a smaller universe with different attitudes about the name than the world at large that often gets polled. But, you know, a majority of people in the poll said, they thought the name was disparaging.

  • 12:12:38

    GOLBECKAnd the Redskins question also breaks down, interestingly, when it comes to race, 73 percent of white respondents say it's disparaging to Native-Americans, while a majority of African-Americans respondents, 52 percent said it's not offensive, what do you make of that?

  • 12:12:52

    MADDENWell, you know, it -- that may be related also to, you know, the way that that question broke down, based on length of time in D.C., where, I think, African-American voters surveyed in the poll, had on average, been here longer than white voters, serving in this poll. So it may, to some extent, be a function of, if you've been here longer and gotten used to the name, you find it less offensive.

  • 12:13:18

    MADDENIt may also be that the white voters surveyed were, sort of, more conscious of some of the questions of the teams relationship with the race and the white owners relationship with race, Dan Snyder.

  • 12:13:34


  • 12:13:35

    MADDENYou know, we had -- we have a story in tomorrow's paper by a reporter Perry Stein, where she talked to someone about this who said, was sort of speculating that it may be that the white voters are more -- are, sort of, more weary of supporting something that might be seen to make them appear racist, whereas black voters, obviously, maybe, have a different relationship to questions of racism and race.

  • 12:13:59

    GOLBECKYeah. If you'd like to join us with your thoughts about the poll or the upcoming election, you can call 1-800-433-8850 or send us a tweet to @kojoshow. The marquee race on the ballot, this election, is the race for mayor and we found that democrat Muriel Bowser had a 17 point lead, pulling it 44 percent, compared to 27 percent for independent David Catania and 10 percent for independent Carol Schwartz, 16 percent are undecided, what do you make of this?

  • 12:14:29

    MADDENSixteen percent undecided, that is barely enough for, if all the undecided's went to Catania in our poll than it would be close. You know, the Catania campaign, after we announced these results last week, disputed the polls accuracy, which is perfectly within their rights to do. I don't think there's been a public poll yet that has shown Muriel Bowser not leading. So it -- we don't know whether the election will come down exactly as the poll predicted but Catania -- the Catania campaign themselves, I think, would say that it would be an upset if he wins.

  • 12:15:06

    GOLBECKUm-hum, a federal judge recently struck down a D.C. law banning concealed carry of firearms, saying it violated the second amendment of the Constitution, a decision that presented lawmakers with a stark choice, should they pass a more permissive law that allows concealed carry or should they challenge that ruling to the Supreme Court and potentially lose? The council has passed emergency legislation, allowing concealed carry with limitations but this week the mayor's office signaled, it planned to appeal the judge's decision. What did D.C. voters think about guns?

  • 12:15:35

    MADDENWell, nearly half the voters in our poll would have preferred the District to just appeal instead of passing any new gun laws. I guess, this question failed to take into account the possibility that the city could do both. It could both appeal the decision and also pass new gun laws. But, I think, you know, clearly voters are -- were telling our pollster that, they're not interested in easing restrictions on guns, regardless of what the court found. They would much rather continue the legal fight and be able to retain the existing gun laws.

  • 12:16:06

    GOLBECKThe poll asked about favorability of two public officials who are not on the ballot, Police Chief Kathy Lanier and Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson, both are seemingly very popular, especially the police chief.

  • 12:16:18

    MADDENYeah, Chief Lanier was -- had a favorable opinion among 67 percent of likely voters and only 15 percent unfavorable. Kaya Henderson was 49 percent favorable and 18 percent unfavorable and 34 percent not sure, which may be a function of people who don't have kids, school aged kids, not spending too much time worrying about the schools.

  • 12:16:39

    GOLBECKRight, so we do have some calls coming in, if you want to weigh in, in the next few minutes, give us a call at 1-800-433-8850. Let's take a call from Barbara in Potomac, Md. Barbara, you're on the air, go ahead.

  • 12:16:53

    BARBARAHi, my question is, that I'm puzzled about this whole issue. The...

  • 12:16:58

    GOLBECKWhich issue is that?

  • 12:16:58

    BARBARA...when did the name Redskins become something derogatory? When the team was named, it was just an intent of the cowboys and Indians, there's so many different Indian names and mascots in the different teams, we love our Redskins. To us, it's not nothing derogatory, it's talking about our football team which we all cheer with pride. So I don't understand what it's all about...

  • 12:17:22

    GOLBECKAll right, Barbara. Let me get Mike's feedback on that. Mike, you can explain your editorial policy about using the name.

  • 12:17:30

    MADDENRight, well, I mean, I think, we've seen and we've been covering and WAMU has been covering the controversy about the name, where there is a significant segment of the Native-American community who does feel the name is offensive, that, you know, Barbara may be correct, that when the name was first chosen, no one really blinked at it. But, you know, in the 1930s, I think, the whole country had a different attitude about questions of, you know, what was and what wasn't acceptable discourse around minority populations.

  • 12:18:00

    MADDENYou know, these days, there's a group of Native-Americans who are trying to have the teams trademark protections thrown out, there's been several challenges to the name over the years, you know, the team has engaged in this dispute too, more actively than it has up till now where they're now sponsoring, sort of, a charitable foundation to show all that they're doing to support reservations and tribes.

  • 12:18:27

    MADDENIn our case, you know, we -- at City Paper, we don't really cover the team on a day to day basis, in terms of like, they won this week, which they did and I'm sure everyone in D.C. was happy about that except the Cowboy's fans. You know, so we don't have to write about what they're doing at practice every day.

  • 12:18:45

    MADDENWe decided that the word (technical) is a racial slur, we think it's likely to change at some point and, you know, we followed the lead of some other media organizations before us, like, The Kansas City Star, most notably, which had stopped using it. And so we ran a poll last -- a couple years ago now, asking our readers to pick which other word we would use instead, in our stylebook, so now we call them the Pigskins and if the team name does change, we're sure we will look forward to using whatever replacement name is chosen.

  • 12:19:16

    GOLBECKAnd we do have one caller who suggested, maybe, they should just change the name to the Washington Natives, which is an interesting choice.

  • 12:19:22

    MADDENThe Native Washingtonians, perhaps.

  • 12:19:23

    GOLBECKYeah. So coming back to the poll, the District government funds art instillations around the city as a way of bringing culture to different corners of the District and as a way to support local arts, but these instillations have also caused some controversy in recent weeks, when neighborhood activists have spoken out against them. We asked about, who should have power to decide where and when these instillations go forward, what did we find?

  • 12:19:45

    MADDENWe found, sort of, a split in public opinion about this, you know, 36 percent of residents -- 36 percent of likely voters said they think residents ought to be able to reject public art they don't like. So basically, if the city commissions a piece of art in your neighborhood and you find it objectionable, than the people who live nearby should be able to say, you know, we don't want this here and have it removed, which is essentially what happened in this 5x5 exhibit in Anacostia, where a piece was installed in a vacant storefront in historic Anacostia that looked, sort of, a little bit like it was full junk.

  • 12:20:19

    MADDENAnd a lot of people objected to it and eventually the city decided to remove it, although it was on the grounds that it was maybe a fire hazard, 33 percent of respondents said they think the city ought to consult neighbors and think about whether the art will offend them before they approve projects, but once they're put in, they shouldn't take them out. So it's, sort of, you know, think about it ahead of time, maybe, don't put something in that you think is likely to cause people to demand it be removed, but once it's there, leave it there. 16 percent said they -- that they didn't think art should be censored by politicians or residents at all. And 15 percent weren't sure.

  • 12:20:50

    MADDENSo it's really -- it's maybe a complicated debate to pull on, you know, a one-question poll, but, I mean, I don't -- I think what we find is that there's not a very strong consensus about how to handle public art and questions of esthetics which, you know, are very hard to determine ahead of time, especially for the government agency.

  • 12:21:10

    GOLBECKYeah, on a similar issue, one of the most controversial development projects in the city is a plan to transform the McMillan Reservoir and Sand Filtration site at North Capitol and Michigan Avenues. Opponents of the current plan for a mixed-use development say it's been pushed forward without adequate community feedback. And that the plans will ruin a historic site that dates back to the 19th century. Proponents say it's a sensible plan for an underdeveloped and underutilized piece of land. We found that most voters are not at all tuned into this debate. Right?

  • 12:21:39

    MADDENI think that's right. 46 percent of respondents were not sure, versus 28 percent who think it should be going forward and 26 percent who think it -- sorry, 28 percent do think it should go forward and 26 percent think it should go forward. Plans for McMillan has been under discussion for years. If you don't live right near there it's pretty easy to tune out. Because it's sort of, you know, one of those stories that never appears to have a resolution. I think, you know, the people that have the most -- the strongest opinions there are the people that live closest to the site, either pro or con.

  • 12:22:13

    GOLBECKSo the poll also asked about the race for attorney general, a position that will be elected for the first time this November. How does that race look a week out?

  • 12:22:21

    MADDENWell, you know, as we -- as I discussed with Kojo on Friday, that poll found that the winner -- if the election were held last week when we were in the field, would be undecided. 38 percent of voters hadn't made their minds up yet. Carl Racine led the field of actual candidates with 22 percent. He was about 10 points ahead of some of the other candidates, including Smitty Smith, Paul Zukerberg and Lori Masters and Lateefah Williams had 4 percent.

  • 12:22:47

    MADDENYou know, this may be a race that is hard to predict in advance. People are not used to voting for an attorney general. It's a new election that was created this year. Up until now it's been appointed by the mayor. It hasn't gotten a huge amount of coverage in the media. There's been a lot of mail about it. I mean, I know every day I come home and there's, you know, another mailing from an attorney general candidate. The Washington Post has endorsed Mr. Racine, so that may help him, too.

  • 12:23:12

    GOLBECKAnd Clinton endorsed Racine.

  • 12:23:14

    MADDENAnd Bill Clinton endorsed Racine, too. So, you know, between the Post and Bill Clinton, you know, it's hard to go wrong.

  • 12:23:20

    GOLBECKOne final question for you. We've gotten some questions over Twitter asking why we didn't poll one of the marquis races on the ballot, the at-large race. Why did we leave it off?

  • 12:23:29

    MADDENThere are 15 candidates on the ballot in that election. And one of the limitations of the nature of the poll we do is that because we don't have live people asking our respondents questions, we can only include as many candidates as you can push buttons for on the phone.

  • 12:23:44

    GOLBECKOh, right.

  • 12:23:45

    MADDENSo we ran into a difficulty deciding, you know, which candidates would be include and which candidates would we not include. And since there hasn't been much in the way of public polling on this, it wasn't easy to sort of point to some previous poll and say, okay, well, these candidates are clearly not in the running. And then on top of it, one of the candidates in that race, Alyssa Silverman, had earlier commissioned a poll by Public Policy Polling, who's our pollster on that race. And that poll showed that Anita Bonds, the Democratic nominee was winning and that Alyssa was in second place. And the top two winners get seats.

  • 12:24:18

    MADDENSo between the fact that we couldn't include all the candidates and the fact that there was a significant potential for the appearance of a conflict of interest if we used the same polling firm as one of the candidates did, we decided to leave that one off. That doesn't mean you shouldn't vote in it. There's, you know, you get two votes in that election. And you should definitely take a look at and any other source of news you have in the city -- -- and look for coverage of the race and decide who you're going to vote for.

  • 12:24:45

    GOLBECKAnd a reminder to listeners, they can find all these polling results at Washington City Paper and also at our site, I'd like to thank Mike Madden, editor of the Washington City Paper for being with us. And we'll be back after a short break. Stay tuned.

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