Years of lobbying, begging and threatening have barely moved the needle for proponents of statehood for the District of Columbia. A new Gallup poll out this week finds that Americans oppose D.C. statehood by a more than 2-to-1 margin, with even self-described Democrats and liberals saying they oppose making the city the 51st state.
The poll, which surveyed the opinions of 1,000 adults across the United States, found that 64% say they oppose statehood and 29% are in favor. That tracks closely with surveys taken decades ago, including a 1992 Yankelovich/Clancy/Shulman poll showing 57% against statehood for the city and a 1989 Washington Post poll with 52% opposing D.C. statehood.
Perhaps even more discouraging: The new Gallup poll finds that event Democrats and liberals as groups also do not support statehood for the city, even with the promise of two likely liberal Democratic senators being elected by city voters. Some 51% of Democrats oppose statehood, compared to just 39% in support, while self-described liberals oppose statehood by a 50% to 40% margin.
Among other group, the resistance is even more pronounced — 64% of independents and 78% of Republicans do not support statehood status for the city.
“Although D.C. residents want their city to become the 51st state, their fellow Americans disagree,” Gallup pollsters wrote in summarizing the survey’s findings. “In fact, Americans have consistently opposed D.C. statehood in polling over the past three decades.”
Statehood partisans insist they are not discouraged, with D.C.’s non-voting Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton having attracted 200 co-sponsors in the New Democratic-dominated House of Representatives for a D.C. statehood bill — the farthest the bill has made it through the legislative process.
Even so, few believe the Republican majority in the Senate has any inclination to pass a D.C. statehood measure.
“Because the D.C. statehood bill has not been close to passage until now, we have only begun to nationalize our fight for statehood,” Ms. Holmes Norton said in a statement. “Congress has often acted to right historical wrongs before polls showed that the American public was on board.”
According to Gallup, the poll does not measure D.C. residential opinion, however, “on a regional basis, support is highest in the East, which includes D.C. and the neighboring state of Maryland.”
Ms. Holmes Norton said the Gallup results were valuable despite the discouraging topline numbers.
“First, it shows that D.C. statehood, for the first time, has become a national issue,” she said. “Second, it reinforces our view that the majority of Americans are still unaware that D.C. residents do not have equal representation in their own national government.”
Elinor Hart, project director for New Columbia Vision, said the results were useful in showing statehood partisans the size of the task before them.
“We have a lot of education to do,” she said. “We want the same rights as the other 50 states and I don’t think [Americans] understand. If you are from far away and you visit to only see the White House and the Smithsonian, you don’t realize there are real people living here.”
While a 2016 referendum in the District received an 86% vote in favor of statehood, the push for statehood has historically been unsuccessful in Congress.
The Senate also has a similar piece of legislation, the Washington, D.C. Admission Act, which has garnered support from all Democratic Senate members running for president.
A hearing on Ms. Holmes Norton’s bill, originally scheduled for July 24, but has been postponed until September.
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