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Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

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?

ANSWERS:

  • 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?

ANSWERS FROM AREA CODE 425 ONLY:

  • 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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