A record high number of District residents want to see D.C. become a state, according to a new Washington Post poll.
Nearly 3 in 4 residents say they are upset that the District has no voting representation in Congress, and about half of the city’s residents say they are “very upset.”
All D.C. laws and budgets are subject to congressional approval, a process that has thwarted the passage of locally approved laws, including legislation governing reproductive rights and the use of marijuana.
More than 7 in 10 residents say that Congress holds too much control over the internal affairs of the nation’s capital, up from 66 percent in 2011. Sixty-seven percent of District residents said they would support statehood for D.C., a city of 650,000 people.
“I think if we were a state, we would have more voice and more authority in certain issues,” said Silvia Murillo, a longtime resident of Adams Morgan. Murillo, who works as a dog walker, said she is frustrated by the city’s skyrocketing real estate prices and growing crime problem. If D.C. had representation, she said, it might be better able to take on those challenges.
The Post poll finds that 67 percent of residents favor the District becoming a state, including 71 percent of registered voters, an increase of 10 percentage points from 2010. Majorities have supported statehood in surveys since the 1990s, but the latest poll finds support one point above the previous record in 2002, the year after the city government regained powers from a federal financial control board.
But support for statehood is still largely a white-collar priority. And only 2 percent of poll respondents rank self-governorship for the District as the city’s top problem.
Supporters of the measure are more likely to be wealthy, highly educated and white, according to the Post poll.
Nearly 8 in 10 residents who make more than $100,000 a year say they would support statehood for the District. The same was true for residents who hold a post-graduate degree.
But for residents who make less than $50,000, or who didn’t graduate from high school, sentiments were split. In both cases, just over half support statehood.
For Sara Hoffman, 33, a Web traffic analyst, the purchase of a house in Northeast was the move that transformed her support for D.C. statehood into a deeper commitment and interest in the issue.
“Once I really became a homeowner here is when I became more completely invested,” she said. “This is where I’m going to be for an extended period of time, [and knowing that] is when I really wanted to be involved,” she said.
For others, the ambition of statehood falls behind a range of issues that seem more urgent, such as housing and security — or the goal just seems inaccessible.
Helen Hill, 78, says she climbs into bed every night in Southeast thinking about the homeless people she sees outside on the street. “I think of those people sleeping in 30- or 40-degree weather, and some of them sleeping on plastic bags,” she said. The District’s growing homelessness problem feels so urgent to Hill that it’s her top concern, she said. After that, her biggest worry is crime. Statehood is something she believes in, she said — it’s just far less urgent.
Bracey Bullock, an 80-year-old veteran and a lifelong Washingtonian who lives in Northeast, called the city’s lack of representation “one of the weirdest situations in the world.”
“We don’t have any freedom,” he said. “A congressman has more say-so [in District law] than he does in his state.” But he sees no point in trying to change it.
Congressional control is written into the Constitution, and an amendment would require a two-thirds majority vote in Congress. “And let’s think about it,” he said. “They don’t want it to be approved.”
[Video: Here’s why John Oliver is all for D.C. statehood]
D.C. is an overwhelmingly Democratic-leaning city, and congressional Republicans, statehood’s proponents say, are unwilling to back a measure that would produce more Democratic votes on Capitol Hill. And it’s that political obstacle that has led the city’s handful of statehood advocacy groups, such as D.C. Vote, to focus their attention outside of the District.
“Our challenge isn’t in D.C. — D.C. residents are behind this,” said Kimberly Perry, D.C. Vote’s executive director. “Our biggest obstacle is people not knowing across the country.”
D.C. Vote’s leaders say that if they can educate residents of other states about the District’s lack of representation, those constituents will pressure their elected representatives.
Although the poll finds that white residents are 20 points more supportive of statehood than African Americans, education is an equalizer on the issue. Black college graduates are slightly more supportive (81 percent) of statehood than college-educated whites (76 percent).
The Washington Post poll was conducted Nov. 12 to 15 among a random sample of 1,005 adult District residents reached on conventional and cellular phones. The margin of sampling error for overall results is plus or minus four percentage points.
Abigail Hauslohner covers D.C. politics -- and the people affected by D.C. politics. She came to the local beat in 2015 after seven years covering war, politics, and corruption across the Middle East and North Africa. Most recently, she served as the Post’s Cairo Bureau Chief.
Norton Tells D.C.’s Abolition Story to Commemorate the 150th Anniversary of 13th Amendment’s Ratification
Oct 1, 2015 Press Release
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), a senior member of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee (OGR), today said there is no basis whatsoever for plans to establish a select committee to investigate Planned Parenthood, especially after OGR Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) conceded in an interview last night that his committee found no evidence that Planned Parenthood violated any laws. Norton said the OGR hearing on Tuesday barely touched on Planned Parenthood’s fetal tissue donation program because it is clear that women have made these donations voluntarily, processed at-cost by only two Planned Parenthood clinics, and, according to the New England Journal of Medicine, “virtually every person in this country has benefited from research using fetal tissue.” Norton said that Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), who would establish such a select committee, would be following the same politically-driven pattern of past Republican investigations, including the Benghazi Select Committee, which Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) just admitted was used to drive down former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s presidential poll numbers, at a cost of $4.5 million to taxpayers.
“When Republican committees fail to uncover wrongdoing, the Republican Congress has taken to stoking partisan divisions by forming new select committees instead of producing something concrete for the American people,” Norton said. “As a result, we see the disaffection of the public, especially in the Republican presidential contest, which at the moment is receiving its own message from Republicans, who are rejecting Republican politicians. Republicans in the country are not alone in being fed up with a Congress that holds politically-motivated hearings that produce politics but no legislation. Republicans have failed to address matters of national importance, such as passing a long-term surface transportation bill or avoiding another looming debt ceiling crisis, all while barely missing shutting down the government yesterday. Republicans have not learned from the Benghazi Select Committee, which Majority Leader McCarthy says has met its purpose in smearing Secretary Clinton. Instead, they are trying the same tactic with a Planned Parenthood Select Committee, even though two-thirds of Americans believe federal funding should continue for the one of the nation’s leading providers of women’s health care. It is long past time that the House of Representatives get back to the critically important business that our constituents sent us here to do.”
D.C. Sen. Michael D. Brown's Dream is Statehood
On August 24, 2013, at the rally for D.C. statehood at the D.C. World War I Memorial on the National Mall prior to the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington, District of Columbia Statehood Senator Michael D. Brown spoke about why the people of the District of Columbia want the State of New Columbia to be admitted to the union now:
My name is Michael Brown and my Dream is DC Statehood
Five decades ago behind where we now stand; and in front of the entire world Dr Martin Luther King set forth his challenge to America. He said he had come to cash a check. A promissory note drawn on the bank of justice and secured by the Declaration of Independence and Constitution. But today, standing here on ground consecrated by the sacrifice of brave Washingtonians who died for our freedom, we are still not free.
It behooves us not to commemorate this day if we forget its purpose. As long as one of us is chained none of us is free and the dream will never be realized until we all have the courage to dare to dream it. Our dream is statehood.
Dr. King admonished us not to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism but to recognize the fierce urgency of now and seize the moment. Let me make this very clear -- half measures will never make us equal and half hearted efforts will never set us free. Only Statehood makes us whole, Only statehood makes us equal, Only statehood rights this historic wrong which has stood for far too long in opposition to every principal that Americans hold dear. This is our time. The fierce urgency of now cries out to us to seek equality by passing the statehood bills currently in both houses of congress.
To this end we must not falter -- we must recommit ourselves to the noble struggle for equality and finally fulfill the promise of democracy for the 632,000 loyal citizens of the District of Columbia.
Let those who gather on this sacred ground in the future know that once we stood here and took a vow. A vow to change the world. A vow to finish the work to which we pay homage here today. A vow to complete the journey and realize the dream. A vow to make the District of Columbia the 51st state and proudly proclaim to the world, free at last free at last, thank god almighty, the people of our nation’s capital are finally free at last. STATEHOOD NOW !
The most up to date information based on todays fight for Democracy. Stories that touch, inspire and reach out to the struggles of everyday Americans.
Obama On D.C. Statehood:
'I'm For It'
For the first time since he took office, President Barack Obama has come out in favor of making Washington, D.C. the nation's 51st state.
"I’m in D.C., so I’m for it," he said of D.C. statehood during an event in Washington today. "I've been for it for quite some time. I've long believed that folks in D.C. pay taxes like everybody else. They contribute to the overall well-being of the country like everybody else. They should be represented like everybody else."
Since moving into the White House in 2009, Obama has expressed support for congressional representation for D.C. residents and defended the city's right to craft its own laws and spend its own money. Last week, Obama issued a veto threat on a spending bill over Republican efforts to stop the city from implementing a marijuana decriminalization law.
But he has remained quiet on the issue of statehood, and during his first term opted not to use the city's "Taxation Without Representation" license plates on his presidential limo. He was also criticized in 2011 for agreeing to a Republican demand that prohibited D.C. from spending local and federal funds on abortions for low-income women.
Despite saying he supports statehood for D.C., Obama also said that moving the issue forward in Congress would be "difficult." Bills that would grant D.C. statehood were introduced in both the House and Senate last year, though neither has received a hearing. The last time a statehood bill was considered was in 1993.
In the the early 1980s, D.C. residents drafted and approved a constitution for admission to the union as the state of New Columbia. The move, which required an amendment to the U.S. Constitution, was not ratified by the required number of states.
Proponents of D.C. statehood say it is the only way to ensure that the city's 640,000 residents receive the same rights as other Americans, while critics argue that the Constitution created D.C. as a federal enclave to be governed by Congress.
Correction: The 1980s effort cited above was for voting representation in both Houses of Congress, not statehood. A statehood bill would only require a simple majority in both the House and Senate. We regret the error, and thank the reader who pointed it out.