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Poll Watch: Latest survey by Stuart Elway finds CarbonWA’s I-732 is in huge trouble

CarbonWA’s poorly conceived I-732 is under water and faring worse than the other five initiatives certified to Washington’s ballot this year, according to a new survey released this morning by longtime pollster Stuart Elway.

I-732 would institute a pollution tax and use the proceeds to lower other taxes. Its promoters say it’s revenue neutral, but the state Office of Financial Management and the Department of Revenue don’t agree.

The Alliance for Jobs & Clean Energy last year tested the I-732 ballot title and found it started out at just 39%. Subsequent polling by NPI found I-732 at 52% in June of 2016 (which is better, but still precarious for a campaign out of the gate).

Now Elway, who was in the field from August 9th-13th, has found the following:

CarbonWA’s Initiative 732

  • For: 34%
  • Against: 37%
  • Undecided: 30%

I-732 does best with Seattle voters (51% support) and Democratic voters (45%) — note the softness of those figures. It does the worst with Republicans (54%), which validates the Alliance’s criticism — which we agree with — that attempting to craft an initiative to appeal to Republican/conservative voters was a folly.

Integrity Washington’s I-1464 also clocks in with just 34% support; however, its opposition only registers at 23%. CarbonWA’s I-732 is the only initiative in Elway’s survey with a higher percentage of voters in the “against” column than the “for” column. It is the first thing voters will see on their ballots statewide.

It should be noted that Elway’s survey is of registered voters, not likely voters:

500 registered voters, selected at random from registered voter lists in Washington state, were interviewed August 9-13 2016 by live, professional interviewers. 36% of the interviews were conducted on cell phones. The margin of sampling error is ±4.5% at the 95% level of confidence. This means, in theory, had this same survey been conducted 100 times, the results would be within ±4.5% of the results reported here at least 95 times.

However, 70% of respondents had voted two or more times in the past four elections, which suggests that most respondents in the poll will end up being voters in the November 2016 general election. The remaining 30% of the sample only voted once in the past four elections, or not at all.

CarbonWA doesn’t have the money to go up on television or radio, or to do much of any advertising at all. It seems their plan is to rely on word of mouth, earned media, and grassroots organizing to win. If their ballot title was strong, their idea sound, and the progressive movement united behind them, that might be enough, in a presidential year, to sweep to victory. However, none of those things are true.

If the polling has consistently shown anything, it’s that Republican and conservative voters are hostile to I-732. A few token endorsements from the likes of Republicans Mark Miloscia and Bill Finkbeiner isn’t going to change that.

CarbonWA has repeatedly alienated progressives — the very people who most want to address the damage to the climate — while failing to attract conservatives to its cause. Its I-732 was conceived out of the belief that a “revenue neutral” tax swap would engender broad bipartisan support. That’s not happening. The evidence suggests that the other side’s voters are going to give I-732 a big thumbs down. And progressive voters are likely to be split. That’s a recipe for defeat.

Last December, CarbonWA’s leadership contemplated not turning in all of their signatures, and working with the Alliance instead on an alternative plan. They ultimately turned in their signatures and declared they were in it to win it.

But it looks like they’re going to lose.

Meanwhile, Democrats are seeking to recapture the state Senate while holding the House. They need to pick up two Senate seats without losing any.

If they’re successful, that could set the stage for a 2017 session in which Governor Inslee’s cap and trade proposal might actually get a vote.

Voting in the November general election will begin in two months.