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Thursday, July 6th, 2017

Majority of Washingtonians surveyed support Democratic Party in 2017 legislative elections

Giv­en the oppor­tu­ni­ty to cast a vote in a spe­cial state House race or state Sen­ate con­test this year — ordi­nar­i­ly just a local elec­tion year — most Wash­ing­to­ni­ans sur­veyed say they would sup­port the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty’s candidates.

Last week, we asked 887 like­ly 2018 vot­ers this question:

QUESTION: If your dis­trict was hold­ing a spe­cial elec­tion for the state Sen­ate or the state House today, would you vote for the Demo­c­ra­t­ic or Repub­li­can can­di­date in your district?


  • Demo­c­ra­t­ic can­di­date: 51%
  • Repub­li­can can­di­date: 39%
  • Not sure: 10%

This is what’s known as a gener­ic bal­lot ques­tion, because it does­n’t ask vot­ers about spe­cif­ic can­di­dates, but rather about their par­ty pref­er­ences in a cur­rent or upcom­ing elec­tion. In our sur­vey, a major­i­ty of respon­dents indi­cat­ed they’d vote for the Demo­c­ra­t­ic can­di­date if their dis­trict was hold­ing a spe­cial elec­tion this year, while only 39% said they’d vote for the Repub­li­can can­di­date. 10% were not sure.

Our sur­vey of 887 like­ly 2018 Wash­ing­ton State vot­ers was in the field from June 27th-28th, 2017; all respon­dents par­tic­i­pat­ed via land­line. The poll, con­duct­ed by Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Polling, has a mar­gin of error of +/- 3.3% at the 95% con­fi­dence level.

These num­bers are from a statewide sur­vey with a statewide sam­ple, and it’s impor­tant to know that most leg­isla­tive dis­tricts in the state don’t have spe­cial elec­tions this year. The five dis­tricts that do are as follows:

  • 7th Leg­isla­tive Dis­trict: House and Senate 
    • Why: A vacan­cy was cre­at­ed when Bri­an Dansel resigned to join the Trump admin­is­tra­tion. Anoth­er vacan­cy was cre­at­ed when Shel­ley Short moved from the House to the Senate.
    • Dis­trict Type: Safe Republican
  • 31st Leg­isla­tive Dis­trict: House and Senate 
    • Why: A vacan­cy was cre­at­ed when Pam Roach resigned to join the Pierce Coun­ty Coun­cil. Anoth­er vacan­cy was cre­at­ed when Phil For­tu­na­to moved from the House to the Senate.
    • Dis­trict Type: Like­ly Republican
  • 37th Leg­isla­tive Dis­trict: Sen­ate
    • Why: A vacan­cy was cre­at­ed when Prami­la Jaya­pal resigned to become a Unit­ed States Representative
    • Dis­trict Type: Safe Democratic
  • 45th Leg­isla­tive Dis­trict: Sen­ate
    • Why: A vacan­cy was cre­at­ed when Andy Hill died of cancer
    • Dis­trict Type: Battleground
  • 48th Leg­isla­tive Dis­trict: House and Senate 
    • Why: A vacan­cy was cre­at­ed when Cyrus Habib resigned to become Lieu­tenant Gov­er­nor. Anoth­er vacan­cy was cre­at­ed when Pat­ty Kud­er­er moved from the House to the Senate.
    • Dis­trict Type: Safe Democratic

Click on the links to see pro­files of each district.

Of the five dis­tricts with spe­cial elec­tions, the 45th is con­sid­ered the big bat­tle­ground. If the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty takes the 45th, the Sen­ate will flip, and the par­ty will have con­trol of both cham­bers in the Wash­ing­ton State Leg­is­la­ture. It is pos­si­ble that seats in oth­er dis­tricts could flip, but it isn’t as likely.

Strange things do hap­pen some­times in elec­tions, like last month, when a con­stituen­cy in Eng­land that had been elect­ing Tories for a cen­tu­ry elect­ed a Labour can­di­date instead. (Read more about what hap­pened in Can­ter­bury.)

I should men­tion that there is no chance the 37th will flip this year because Demo­c­ra­t­ic incum­bent Rebec­ca Sal­daña hap­pens to be unopposed.

We don’t have a break­out of respons­es only from the 45th, but we do know how peo­ple respond­ed based on their area code, and since this par­tic­u­lar sur­vey of Wash­ing­ton vot­ers was of land­lines only, the area code of our respon­dents’ phone num­bers has a cor­re­la­tion with their actu­al location.

The 45th Dis­trict falls with­in the area that uses the 425 code, which encom­pass­es the East­side of King Coun­ty and parts of Sno­homish Coun­ty, but does not include heav­i­ly Demo­c­ra­t­ic Seat­tle or heav­i­ly Repub­li­can East­ern Wash­ing­ton. Look­ing at the answers from only this group of respon­dents gives us a bet­ter idea as to the par­ty pref­er­ences of Wash­ing­to­ni­ans who dwell in the suburbs.

Answers from the 425 area code only were:

QUESTION: If your dis­trict was hold­ing a spe­cial elec­tion for the state Sen­ate or the state House today, would you vote for the Demo­c­ra­t­ic or Repub­li­can can­di­date in your district?


  • Demo­c­ra­t­ic can­di­date: 59%
  • Repub­li­can can­di­date: 30%
  • Not sure: 11%

Com­pared to the sam­ple as a whole, enthu­si­asm for the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty is high­er among respon­dents with (425) num­bers, and enthu­si­asm for the Repub­li­can Par­ty is cor­re­spond­ing­ly low­er. That’s prac­ti­cal­ly a two-to-one mar­gin for the Democ­rats. The per­cent­age of respon­dents who aren’t sure is about the same.

What’s inter­est­ing about this data is how it com­pares to the most recent elec­tions for Leg­is­la­ture in the 45th. Take a look — this was last year’s con­test between Demo­c­ra­t­ic State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Roger Good­man and his chal­lenger, Repub­li­can Ramiro Valder­ra­ma, a city coun­cilmem­ber from Sam­mamish:

Roger Good­man: 61.87% (42,981 votes)
Ramiro Valder­ra­ma: 38.13% (26,491 votes)
Total Votes (not includ­ing write-ins): 69,472

There isn’t a “not sure” option on the bal­lot in a real elec­tion, only a write-in option, but note that Roger Good­man was able to gar­ner more than 60% of the vote in the 45th last year, while Ramiro Valder­ra­ma could­n’t crack 40%, despite hav­ing been elect­ed to rep­re­sent one of the dis­tric­t’s larg­er cities.

Grant­ed, this was a pres­i­den­tial year with fair­ly high turnout, but if we look back fur­ther (Good­man also won by a con­vinc­ing mar­gin in 2014, for instance) we can see a clear trend: the 45th is becom­ing increas­ing­ly Demo­c­ra­t­ic. It enthu­si­as­ti­cal­ly sup­port­ed Hillary Clin­ton and oth­er Demo­c­ra­t­ic can­di­dates in 2016. It is a dis­trict that is slip­ping away from the Repub­li­cans — and they know it.

The Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty is field­ing senior deputy pros­e­cu­tor Man­ka Dhin­gra in the spe­cial elec­tion in the 45th, while the Repub­li­can Par­ty is field­ing a pro­tege of Dino Rossi and Cathy McMor­ris Rodgers — Jiny­oung Lee Englund.

The can­di­dates have very dif­fer­ent back­grounds and cam­paign themes. Dhin­gra has empha­sized the need to invest in schools and men­tal health, and has built a very grass­roots-ori­ent­ed cam­paign, with a large teen vol­un­teer force, while Englund — who only reg­is­tered to vote in the dis­trict a week pri­or to announc­ing —  is run­ning against “Seat­tle style pol­i­tics” and is rely­ing heav­i­ly on paid canvassers.

Bal­lots in the August Top Two elec­tion will be mailed in a few days; the first results will be report­ed on Tues­day, August 1st, 2017. That’s when we’ll have num­bers from a real elec­tion to com­pare to this sur­vey data.

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