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D.C. statehood activists walk by the U.S. Supreme Court to show support ahead of the House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on March 22, 2021.

D.C. statehood activists walk by the U.S. Supreme Court to show support ahead of the House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on March 22, 2021. (Photo: Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc. via Getty Images)

Democracy for DC 'On the Horizon'? Poll Shows Support for Statehood at All-Time High

"For more than 200 years, my hundreds of thousands of neighbors in this city and I have been mere spectators to our democracy."

Jake Johnson

A new national survey out Monday morning shows that a majority of U.S. voters support granting statehood to Washington, D.C. and full congressional representation to the district's more than 700,000 residents, a finding released just ahead of a historic House hearing on Democratic Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton's proposal to do just that.

The poll (pdf) from Data for Progress and Democracy for All 2021 Action finds that 54% of voters—including 74% of Democrats, 51% of Independents, and 34% of Republicans—back the push to make D.C. the nation's 51st state, the highest level of support recorded to date.

"The people who elected President Biden and Democrats in Congress recognize that making D.C. a state is critical to the fight for racial justice and civil rights in this country."
—Derrick Johnson, NAACP

The survey further shows that when respondents are presented with an argument in favor of D.C. statehood ("there should not be taxation without representation, and Washingtonians deserve to have elected leaders who can cast a vote on their behalf in Congress") and a right-wing argument against it ("this is a political power grab by politicians who want to change the rules of the game and add new senators from their own party to the U.S. Senate"), overall support grows to 58%.

When D.C. statehood is framed as a racial justice issue and respondents are informed that a majority of the district's residents are people of color, 52% of voters support the idea, the poll finds.

"The people who elected President Biden and Democrats in Congress recognize that making D.C. a state is critical to the fight for racial justice and civil rights in this country," Derrick Johnson, president and CEO of the NAACP, said in a statement.

Norton, D.C.'s lone representative in Congress, pointed to the new polling data during a press conference ahead of Monday's House Oversight Committee hearing on her Washington, D.C. Admission Act, which has 215 co-sponsors in the House, 41 in the Senate, and the backing of President Joe Biden. The House passed an earlier version of the bill last year, but then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) refused to take it up.

"When taxation without representation is given as a reason for D.C. statehood, a majority of both women and men, college educated and non-college educated, younger and older, and black and white voters support statehood," said Norton, who—given D.C.'s current status—can sponsor legislation and serve on committees but not vote on a bill's final passage.

"That single idea, which gave rise to the American Revolution, still resonates today, even more than other salient arguments, such as that D.C. pays higher federal taxes than any state, pays more federal taxes than 21 states and has a higher bond rating than 35 states," Norton continued. "As support and majorities for H.R. 51 grow with the exposure today's hearing will again give our bill, we dare believe that statehood is on the horizon."

Watch the hearing on Norton's legislation:

Wade J. Henderson, interim president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said in testimony during Monday's hearing that "for more than 200 years, my hundreds of thousands of neighbors in this city and I have been mere spectators to our democracy."

"The right to vote is meaningless if you cannot put anyone into office," said Henderson. "Washingtonians have been deprived of this right for more than two centuries—often on grounds that had nothing to do with constitutional design, and everything to do with race—and remain so today. Until D.C. residents have a vote in Congress, they will not be much better off than African Americans in the South were prior to August 6, 1965, when President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law."

"And until then," he added, "the efforts of the civil rights movement will remain incomplete."


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