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 – certain||25.1%||Total Yes: 41.4%|
|Yes – could change||12.5%|
|Undecided – lean yes||3.8%|
Opposition to I-1125
|No – certain||30.2%||Total No: 40.0%|
|No – could change||7.3%|
|Undecided – lean no||2.5%|
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.
To 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 – certain||41.1%||Total Yes: 50.3%|
|Yes – could change||6.7%|
|Undecided – lean yes||2.5%|
Opposition to I-1183
|No – certain||35.6%||Total No: 42.8%|
|No – could change||4.9%|
|Undecided – lean no||2.2%|
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.