- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 23, 2011

D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s popularity is plummeting under the weight of a series of scandals involving personnel practices that have resulted in federal and local investigations, a new poll shows.

In just three months, Mr. Gray’s personal favorability rating has dropped nearly 30 percentage points, from 60 percent to 31 percent, according to a Clarus Research Group survey released early Wednesday.

“Since his election, Vincent Gray’s public standing has taken a beating. His job approval is much lower than Mayor Fenty’s job rating was throughout most of his term,” said Clarus president Ron Faucheux, referring to Mr. Gray’s predecessor, Adrian M. Fenty.

Allegations of nepotism and cash payouts during his mayoral campaign and questions about the fitness of his political appointees have dogged the fledgling Gray administration, which is under investigation by a D.C. Council committee, the FBI, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and Congress less than 100 days after it took office.

Mr. Gray’s popularity appeared to be divided along racial and gender lines. Just 17 percent of whites said they approve of the mayor, compared with 42 percent of blacks. The mayor scored worst among white men, with 12 percent approval, and best among black women, who gave him a 43 percent approval rating.

Mr. Gray said the poll offered him an opportunity to identify areas where he could win back public support.

“I appreciate those who still stand with me and will continue to work hard to earn the favor of those who may have doubts,” he said.

The telephone poll of 500 registered voters conducted Monday and Tuesday shows 40 percent of D.C. residents disapprove of the job Mr. Gray is doing as mayor, while 31 percent approve. Twenty-nine percent of those surveyed have no opinion.

The results contrast to a September 2010 Clarus poll, taken shortly before the mayoral primary in which Mr. Gray defeated incumbent Mr. Fenty, that gave Mr. Gray a personal favorability rating of 60 percent and an unfavorable rating of 20 percent.

In other poll questions, D.C. Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown, himself the subject of a scandal over his ordering of high-priced, taxpayer-funded sport utility vehicles, also rates more negative than positive. Forty-three percent of respondents disapprove of Mr. Brown’s performance, while 27 percent approve.

The most popular public figure in the District is Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier, whose approval ratings continue to rise. Chief Lanier scored an 84 percent approval, up from 80 percent last year and just edging out longtime D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, whose approval rating stands at 82 percent.

The poll also shows former council member Vincent B. Orange leading in the April 26 special election for the at-large council seat vacated by Mr. Brown when he became council chairman. Mr. Orange is running first with 28 percent, followed by Sekou Biddle, who was appointed to the fill the seat temporarily, with 6 percent. Republican Patrick Mara polls at 6 percent, with six other candidates receiving consideration.

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