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Poll Watch: Tim Eyman’s I-1125 and Costco’s I-1183 will be close, respected poll indicates

For the last several years, the University of Washington’s Center for Survey Research has taken the pulse of Washington’s electorate each autumn, in the weeks leading up to Election Day. The Center’s survey, known as the Washington Poll, has successfully predicted the outcome of many fiercely contested ballot measures, including the defeats of I-933 and I-1033 in 2006 and 2009.

This year’s Washington Poll has just been released as of late this evening, and it indicates that Tim Eyman’s I-1125 and Costco’s I-1183 are going to be close… possibly extremely close. The poll, which surveyed nine hundred and thirty eight registered voters across Washington between October 10th and today (October 30th), found support for I-1183 at 50.3% and support for I-1125 at 41.4%. Opposition stands at 42.8% and 40%, respectively.

The numbers break down as follows:

Support for I-1125

Yes – certain25.1% Total Yes: 41.4%
Yes – could change12.5%
Undecided – lean yes3.8%

Opposition to I-1125

No – certain30.2% Total No: 40.0%
No – could change7.3%
Undecided – lean no2.5%

The total number of undecided voters (those without a preference) is fairly high, at 18.7%. This figure indicates a lot of voters are not familiar with I-1125 yet.

It is certainly encouraging to see that the number of certain Nos is higher than the number of certain Yeses. This suggests that our efforts against I-1125 are starting to bear fruit. Keep Washington Rolling, the anti-1125 coalition that NPI belongs to, is presently running several television and radio ads against the measure with the help of Microsoft and Boeing, which have collectively put up close to a million dollars to get the message out. One spot features Doug MacDonald and Sid Morrison, the former Transportation Secretaries, explaining how 1125 would threaten our state’s ability to complete vital road projects.

NO on I-1125To beat I-1125, we need to convert the relatively low number of weak Nos into strong Nos, and move a little more than half of the undecided voters into the No column. Undecided voters tend to break against poorly thought out right wing ballot measures when the opposition does a good job explaining the consequences. We’ve clearly got much more that needs to be done in terms of outreach between now and November 8th.

Meanwhile, the numbers for I-1183 don’t look as encouraging. I-1183 has been in the news a lot, and Costco is spending a record $22.5 million this year alone to sell I-1183. Their ad blitz is having an impact; the Washington Poll shows support for I-1183 at just over 50%. But the Protect Our Communities coalition (of which NPI is a part) isn’t far behind. Take a look at the numbers:

Support for I-1183

Yes – certain41.1% Total Yes: 50.3%
Yes – could change6.7%
Undecided – lean yes2.5%

Opposition to I-1183

No – certain35.6% Total No: 42.8%
No – could change4.9%
Undecided – lean no2.2%

The Washington Poll puts the number of undecided voters at 6.9%. Clearly, more people have an idea of which way they’re going to vote on I-1183 than I-1125. To win, Protect Our Communities has to convince all of the undecided voters in this poll to vote no and convince some of those leaning yes to vote against.

When in doubt, people tend to vote no on ballot measures, so Protect Our Communities needs to refine its criticism of Costco’s ads, which make a lot of too-good-to-be-true promises. It won’t be enough for the campaign to simply point out that Costco is trying to buy the election (though it is good for voters to know who’s behind I-1183). Protect Our Communities has to debunk Costco’s false promises and paint a stronger picture of the hidden consequences of I-1183.

Costco’s media consultants are going all-out to sell I-1183, and the results of this poll reflect that. Costco is doing all it can to blunt the effectiveness of Protect Our Communities’ message – putting first responders into its own advertising, claiming that passage of the measure will increase state revenue, and so on. Protect Our Communities needs to respond to these countermeasures with its own.

Granted, the only truly definitive poll is the election itself, which is happening right now. All of the evidence we have suggests that I-1125 and I-1183 will be close. To cross the finish line first, Keep Washington Rolling and Protect Our Communities will need to campaign aggressively in the last week and try to reach as many voters who have not already voted as possible.

The Washington Poll also looked at how the 2012 gubernatorial and presidential races are shaping up, though those contests are a year away from being decided. The poll found Rob McKenna leading Jay Inslee, 44.9% to 38.4%, with 17.6% undecided. It also found Barack Obama leading both Rick Perry and Mitt Romney by a comfortable margin. Obama polled better against Romney (54% vs. 50.2%), though Romney himself didn’t poll any better than Perry (both men got 40.7%).

Not surprisingly, respondents told surveyors that the economy and the recession were the biggest issues on their minds.

High unemployment was specifically cited as a concern.

The poll also asked respondents how they would vote if there was a ballot measure concerning marriage equality next year. 47% said they would strongly support such a measure; 31% said they would strongly oppose. 8% said they were inclined to vote yes and 7% said they were inclined to vote no.

The remaining 7% were undecided.

These numbers suggest that a referendum to overturn a marriage equality bill would fail, which is very encouraging.

The Legislature ought to enact a marriage equality bill in the 2012 legislative session and advance the cause of civil rights in Washington. The right wing would undoubtedly try to force a referendum on the bill, but they’d be doing so in a presidential election year, with higher than usual turnout.

Moving forward next year would seem to be a risk worth taking. It certainly feels like the time has come. Washington should be in the vanguard of the marriage equality movement, not bringing up the rear. We’ve banned discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. We’ve done domestic partnerships… twice.

Now it’s time for the real thing: Full marriage equality.

Speaking of turnout, Secretary of State Sam Reed has forecast turnout for this year’s election at only 47%. If the prediction holds true, it’ll mean that less than half of Washington’s voters will be deciding the fate of I-1125 and I-1183.

POSTSCRIPT: Here’s a few fast facts about the Washington Poll.

  • First conducted in 2006
  • Has successfully predicted the outcome (success or failure) of every ballot measure that it has polled, with the exception of I-985 in 2008 (but the poll did show support for I-985 weakening).
  • Principally investigated by Dr. Matt Barreto, Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Washington.
  • Administered over the phone by live callers, based on a randomly selected list of phone numbers using a publicly available list of registered voters.
  • Both landlines and cell phones were included in the list.
  • Average twenty-eight minutes in length.
  • Results have a 3.2% margin of error.

For more information, please see the Washington Poll website.


  1. Paul Smith
    Posted November 7th, 2011 at 1:43 PM | Permalink

    I am sick of being called a right winger. Because I am voting for this I am a right winger, huh? I resent your comment and If I were voting no I would now vote yes. I am sick of you pro-government do everything for people types. The legislature is a political organization. We do not need politicians charging more than they need for tolls and using that money for other programs and purposes. they are not subjective. Experts in accounting, costs on these new projects are unbiased and will charge only what is practical and necessary. I do not care if more projects don’t get built. we need to stop taxing and spending. Less government IS America not your ideal of bigger government. We do not want the new Columbia River Crossing and light rail here in Vancouver. We will not tolerate it and it will probably get blown up just as it gets done. That’s how upset people are about this. No $400 million from Washington on this.

    Note: This comment was edited by NPI to comply with our Commenting Guidelines.

  2. Andrew
    Posted November 7th, 2011 at 3:49 PM | Permalink

    Paul, you seem confused.

    The only thing that is characterized as right wing in this post is Initiative 1125 itself. I didn’t say that everyone who supports I-1125 belongs to the right wing, although certainly I-1125’s most ardent proponents (including Tim Eyman and his supporters) are part of the right wing in this state.

    You say you’re sick of being called “a right winger”. That implies that other people have been (unfairly, in your view) calling you that. Perhaps you’ve been labeled that way because you sound like an anti-government Tea Party conservative. That’s the impression I got from reading your comment.

    Your assertion “if I were voting no I would now vote yes” made me laugh.

    Obviously, you’d already made up your mind about I-1125 before you read and commented on this post. The language you used in your comment makes it clear that you feel strongly about this issue. And a voter who feels strongly about an issue is going to vote on principle – not change his or her vote on a whim.

    I also thought it was funny that you called the Legislature a political organization. Of course it is. So is the State of Washington. In fact, all governments everywhere are political organizations.

    As progressives, we do not believe that government can or should do everything. But we know that there are some things that we can only accomplish by pooling our resources into a common wealth. Like building roads and bridges.

    You may not think we need a new Columbia River Crossing. But the twin bridges that carry I-5 over the Columbia are aging and needs to be replaced. One of the spans dates back to 1917; the other dates back to 1958. These spans carry a huge amount of traffic and are at the end of their useful lives. It’s time to replace them. The last thing we need is another bridge disaster, like the one we had in Minneapolis in 2007 that killed thirteen people and injured another one hundred and forty five.

    Maybe you yourself don’t care about how safe our bridges are. But you know what, Paul? Many of your fellow citizens care a great deal about how safe our roads and highways are. So don’t be surprised if you log on to your computer tomorrow evening and find that you’ve been outvoted on I-1125.

  3. Sydney T
    Posted November 7th, 2011 at 5:30 PM | Permalink

    I actually agree with Paul myself. But I’m not one to argue.

  4. Alan Moen
    Posted November 8th, 2011 at 5:12 PM | Permalink

    Pretty biased against I-1183, aren’t you? So what are the “false promises” Costco and other big retailers are making about getting the state out of the business? There WILL be better selection and more stores for consumers. There WILL be lower prices, as recent studies have indicated. There will be more revenue for the state as well, as studies have also shown. The “protect our communities” arguments are distortions and their fear-mongering name alone is an insult to any intelligent voter. The big distributors, who are equally trying to “buy” this election, have really overplayed their hand this time, and the battle between them and retailers (which is really what this measure is all about) is going to be finally won by the retailers, as it should be. It will be a big victory for all of us to end Washington’s post-Prohibition monopoly on liquor sales.

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