Washington Post poll: DC Mayor Muriel E. Bowser’s approval rating plummets amid rising crime concerns

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A 58% majority of residents approve of Bowser’s overall performance, up from 67% in Post polls conducted in 2019 and 2017. Bowser also holds a large advantage in the June Democratic primary, with many voters still unaware of his opponents. . While Bowser is getting high marks from voters on his handling of the coronavirus and traffic safety, voters are rating him negatively on other issues, especially his efforts to reduce crime, which has moved to the forefront of concerns among voters. voters.

Asked to name the district’s biggest problem, 36% cite crime, violence or guns — twice as many as in a 2019 Post poll. Over the same period, the share of residents saying the city will in the right direction went from 59% to 49%.

The random sample of 904 DC residents who were polled gave mixed marks for Bowser’s leadership, including on some of his signature issues. A majority of 72% say Bowser is doing a great or good job in handling the coronavirus pandemic, and 58% rate him positively for working to improve street safety for cyclists, pedestrians and motorists. But more than 6 in 10 rate Bowser negatively on its performance on affordable housing and homelessness, and more than 7 in 10 give it negative ratings on reducing crime.

Yet despite locals’ fears and frustrations, Bowser’s critics have not banded together behind an opposing candidate. Four months out from the Democratic mayoral primary, 47% of registered Democrats say they would support Bowser if the election were held now, while 19% support General Council Member Robert C. White Jr. and 17% support the member of the council of district 8 Trayon. White Sr.

A majority of 61% of Registered Democrats say they don’t know enough about Robert White to have a favorable or unfavorable impression, while 47% of Democrats say the same about Trayon White. By comparison, only 4% of Democrats don’t know Bowser. The primary winner is an overwhelming favorite in the general election given the city’s strong Democratic leanings.

Bowser declined to comment on the poll, and Trayon White did not respond to a request for comment. Luz Martinez, campaign manager and spokesperson for Robert White, said in a statement that the poll results show “support for Bowser is lukewarm.”

“When people meet Robert, they get excited when they hear that people are challenging her, and they invite change and a new vision,” she said. “People say eight years is enough…they’re ready for someone who will put people above politics.”

Mullin, 37, called Bowser a moderate counterbalance to an increasingly leftist council. While he thinks she needs to be stronger on pedestrian safety, he applauded her advocacy for DC statehood on the national stage and said she deserves a third term.

Meanwhile, he said he hadn’t heard much about the political positions of Robert White and Trayon White.

“Maybe it’s because they have the same last name; it will definitely be a branding issue for them,” Mullin said. As for Bowser? “She has proven that she is more than capable.”

While Bowser is quite popular across all racial groups – including a 62% approval rating from white residents and a 54% approval rating from black residents – poll finds splits by race in DC residents’ optimism about the city’s direction . While 60% of white residents say DC is on the right track, 54% of black residents believe the city is heading in the wrong direction.

Geographically, residents of the city’s northwest quadrant have the rosiest view, with 54% with the majority saying the city is moving in the right direction, while residents of the North East are split, 46% in the right direction versus 44% in the wrong direction, and those who live in Southeast Washington say the city is moving in the wrong direction by a 10-point margin (48% to 38%). The survey did not interview enough Southwestern Washington residents to release the results.

Across all segments of the city, more Democrats say they plan to vote for Bowser than for his opponents. Bowser holds a solid lead in Wards 2 and 3, where 61% of Democratic voters support her, compared to 14% for Robert White and 8% for Trayon White. She is weakest in Wards 7 and 8, where 38% support her, 22% plan to vote for Robert White and 33% plan to vote for Trayon White. Bowser’s support is also strongest among seniors, with 66% of Democrats ages 65 and older saying they support her, compared to 51% of 40-64-year-olds and 38% of Democrats under 40.

Tenise Quick, a black Ward 5 resident, is pessimistic about the city’s direction under Bowser and plans to vote for Robert White in June. Quick, 21, said his biggest issue was education, an area in which White has long criticized the mayor for failing to close the racial achievement gap.

Bowser receives very positive ratings for improving DC’s public schools, with 48% saying she is doing a great or good job and 36% saying she is doing “not so well” or “poor”.

Quick, who has dyslexia, said his teachers at DC public schools didn’t have the time or resources to meet his needs. She ended up graduating from a private school in Maryland, but she worries about the young people she knows who are still in DC schools.

“I fell through the cracks with Muriel Bowser’s plan,” she said. By listening to Robert White, she feels he will improve the student-teacher ratio. “He went to DC public schools. He knows what needs to be done to help measure the gap and help close it for people who might be falling behind.

Bowser enjoyed high approval ratings for most of his eight years as mayor. In 2017 and 2019, two-thirds of DC residents said they approved of the work she was doing. Today, that share has fallen to 58%, while the number of those who disagree has almost doubled, from 21% in 2019 to 37% now.

Yet she remains more popular than previous mayors who lost re-election campaigns: Vincent C. Gray had a 51% approval rating in January 2014, before Bowser beat him in June, and Adrian M. Fenty had a 42% approval rating in January 2010, months before losing to Gray.

Keara Mehlert, a 34-year-old White and Asian Ward 6 resident, said she noticed Bowser’s major gestures, such as painting “Black Lives Matter” on the street outside the White House during the Trump administration. , but she questions whether the mayor is efficient in the more day-to-day aspects of his job.

“I think there’s a lot of her that’s just about the image and not the actual action,” said Mehlert, who plans to vote for Robert White. Mehlert’s main concern is road safety. “Something has to change. There are people, children, who are being killed. As a new parent this is really scary for me and as someone who walks and takes Capital Bikeshare to work. I live right at a major intersection and see people constantly running from stop signs and red lights.

Lenwood Johnson, 62, who is black, said he was ready for a change and was leaning towards Trayon White. “Mayor Bowser has served two terms. I think she’s probably run out of new ideas,” said Johnson, a Ward 8 resident.

Asked about Board Chairman Phil Mendelson (D), who is also up for re-election, 56% of DC residents say they don’t know enough about him to have an opinion, while 27% support and 15% are unfavorable.

The poll finds that more than 7 in 10 DC residents approve of Bowser’s handling of the pandemic. A majority of 63% also say it imposed the right level of restrictions on businesses and residents, while 19% say it was not strict enough and 16% say it was too restrictive. Young adults are slightly more likely to say Bowser’s coronavirus restrictions have been too strict, and more than 6 in 10 black residents rate Bowser’s handling of the pandemic positively compared to more than 8 in 10 white residents .

Johnson is the one who disagrees, saying he thinks Bowser’s mask mandates have been too restrictive.

He’s also worried about crime — he won’t vote for Robert White, he said, because he thinks young offenders should face harsh sentences the candidate opposes — and hopes Trayon White can reach out to disgruntled youth in his neighborhood.

“I hope if he gets elected as mayor, maybe he can connect with these young people who are hijacking cars and shooting and killing people,” Johnson said. “Hopefully if they could see someone close in age to them, a young black man in a leadership role like mayor, hopefully that might help convince them not to be so into crime .”

While more than a third of residents say crime is the biggest problem facing the city, 14% say the main problem is housing, the cost of housing or low-income housing, compared to 23% who gave the same answer in 2019. The coronavirus pandemic, homelessness/poverty and economy are cited 7% each, while 5% cite transportation concerns including traffic, road quality and safety issues for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists.

Kelsey Murt, a 31-year-old White Ward 4 resident who supports Bowser but plans to do more research before voting, said she’s been impressed with the mayor’s handling of the pandemic – especially when she hears about the experiences of friends who live in other cities. Murt, who called pandemic politics his biggest factor in considering a candidate, also agree with Bowser’s decision to rescind the vaccine mandate this week.

“I think she did it based on the fact that the number of cases has gone down” as the push for the omicron variant goes down, Murt said. “I think she’s done a good job increasing restrictions as cases go up and reducing them as cases go down.”

This Washington Post poll was conducted February 2-14 of a random sample of 904 adult DC residents by landline and cell phone, including cell phones with area codes other than 202. The sample includes 579 Democrats entered with a margin of error of plus or minus five percentage points; the overall margin of error is four points.

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