NPI's Cascadia Advocate

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.

Wednesday, February 5th, 2020

Should “advisory votes” be abolished? Voters say yes to repealing Tim Eyman’s push polls

Edi­tor’s Note: The fol­low­ing are the pre­pared remarks of NPI Vice Pres­i­dent-Sec­re­tary Diane Jones in sup­port of Sen­a­tor Pat­ty Kud­er­er’s SB 6610, which would per­ma­nent­ly abol­ish Tim Eyman’s advi­so­ry votes push polls and cre­ate a task force to exam­ine ways of gath­er­ing pub­lic input on the Leg­is­la­ture’s fis­cal deci­sions. The bill was heard on Feb­ru­ary 5th, 2020 by the Wash­ing­ton State Sen­ate’s State Gov­ern­ment Committee. 

Chair Hunt, Rank­ing Mem­ber Zeiger, and Mem­bers of the Committee:

Good morn­ing. For the record, my name is Diane Jones. I serve as the Vice Pres­i­dent-Sec­re­tary of the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute, a non­prof­it 501(c)(4) strat­e­gy cen­ter based in Red­mond that works to raise every­one’s qual­i­ty of life through insight­ful research and imag­i­na­tive advocacy.

I’m pleased to be here today in strong sup­port of Sen­ate Bill 6610. Adop­tion of this leg­is­la­tion will save mil­lions of tax dol­lars over the next few years by rid­ding our bal­lots of “advi­so­ry votes”, which are real­ly push polls that exist for the pur­pose of influ­enc­ing Wash­ing­to­ni­ans’ views on mat­ters of pub­lic finance.

Our bal­lots are not an appro­pri­ate place for pro­pa­gan­da or adver­tis­ing. The bal­lot is the means through which we as a peo­ple make our deci­sions about who should rep­re­sent us, and what laws we should have.

Fake bal­lot mea­sures like the Ini­tia­tive 960-man­dat­ed push polls that have appeared along­side legit­i­mate mea­sures since 2012 defile the bal­lot and con­fuse vot­ers, mak­ing vot­ing more difficult.

Last year, NPI asked Wash­ing­to­ni­ans what they thought of these push polls in two dif­fer­ent statewide pub­lic opin­ion research sur­veys tak­en five months apart.

In both sur­veys, our poll­ster (Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Polling) found a sev­en­teen point mar­gin in favor of their repeal. I’m pleased this morn­ing to be able to share our find­ings with you as they make their pub­lic debut.

Because we are always gen­uine­ly curi­ous about what our state’s vot­ing pub­lic actu­al­ly thinks about an issue, we had to come up with a ques­tion that would be as neu­tral­ly word­ed as pos­si­ble, and not fol­low the bad exam­ple set by Eyman’s push polls, which by design can only yield garbage data.

That proved to be challenging.

How do you objec­tive­ly describe what are pieces of propaganda?

We even­tu­al­ly came up with an ele­gant solu­tion, which was to pit Tim Eyman’s word­ing and argu­ments in favor of the push polls against our own. That gave us a neu­tral­ly word­ed ques­tion capa­ble of elic­it­ing cred­i­ble and usable data.

This was our ques­tion wording:

QUESTION: The Wash­ing­ton State Leg­is­la­ture is con­sid­er­ing leg­is­la­tion that would abol­ish the non-bind­ing statewide advi­so­ry votes that are trig­gered when­ev­er a bill is passed that increas­es state rev­enue. Pro­po­nents of advi­so­ry votes say they allow vot­ers to vote on tax increas­es and trans­form the voter’s pam­phlet into a tax increase report card, enabling vot­ers to find out what Olympia is doing to them. Oppo­nents say that advi­so­ry votes are actu­al­ly cost­ly push polls designed to con­fuse the pub­lic, which ought to be elim­i­nat­ed to save valu­able tax dol­lars and pre­vent legit­i­mate mea­sures and can­di­date elec­tions from being pushed to the back of the bal­lot. Do you strong­ly sup­port, some­what sup­port, some­what oppose, or strong­ly oppose abol­ish­ing non-bind­ing advi­so­ry votes?

And here are the respons­es we received:

May of 2019
  • Sup­port: 47% 
    • Strong­ly: 19%
    • Some­what: 28%
  • Oppose: 30%
    • Some­what: 16%
    • Strong­ly: 14%
  • Not Sure: 23%
Octo­ber of 2019
  • Sup­port: 43% 
    • Strong­ly: 21%
    • Some­what: 22%
  • Oppose: 26%
    • Some­what: 14%
    • Strong­ly: 12%
  • Not Sure: 31%

Both sur­veys posed the exact same ques­tion, with no vari­a­tions in wording.

In our first sur­vey, con­duct­ed in May of 2019 with eight hun­dred and eighty-six like­ly vot­ers par­tic­i­pat­ing, 47% of respon­dents expressed sup­port for abol­ish­ing “advi­so­ry votes”, while 30% expressed oppo­si­tion. 23% said they were not sure.

In our sec­ond sur­vey, con­duct­ed in Octo­ber of 2019 with nine hun­dred like­ly vot­ers par­tic­i­pat­ing, 43% of respon­dents expressed sup­port for abol­ish­ing advi­so­ry votes, while 26% expressed oppo­si­tion. 31% said they were not sure.

In both sur­veys, the gap favor­ing repeal was exact­ly the same: sev­en­teen points.

The major dif­fer­ence between the two sur­veys was the num­ber who said they were not sure. The high num­ber of “not sure” respons­es we saw (23% in May of 2019, 31% in Octo­ber of 2019) is under­stand­able, con­sid­er­ing that there is a lot of con­fu­sion out there about what “advi­so­ry votes” are.

Both sur­veys were con­duct­ed by Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Polling and have a mar­gin of error of +/- 3.3% at the 95% con­fi­dence inter­val. And both sur­veys used a blend­ed method­ol­o­gy, with some respon­dents par­tic­i­pat­ing by land­line and cell­phone only vot­ers par­tic­i­pat­ing via online pan­el or text message.

Most vot­ers who have an opin­ion favor repeal… as do we. Push polls are, by design, intend­ed to influ­ence how peo­ple think instead of tak­ing a snap­shot of pub­lic opin­ion. That is why “advi­so­ry votes” must be repealed. They can­not be fixed. But hav­ing a con­ver­sa­tion about we ascer­tain data we can use about deci­sions that are made here in our state­house would be worthwhile.

Last year, this com­mit­tee gave Sen­ate Bill 5224, a sim­i­lar bill, a bipar­ti­san, unan­i­mous do-pass rec­om­men­da­tion — and then fol­lowed that up a few days lat­er by pro­vid­ing sev­en votes for the bill on the floor of the Senate.

That was one of our favorite moments of the 2019 ses­sion. It showed that Democ­rats and Repub­li­cans in this cham­ber could come togeth­er to pro­tect the sanc­ti­ty of our bal­lot and save tax dol­lars. We hope you’ll go for two for two this year and give Sen­ate Bill 6610 a ring­ing “do pass” recommendation.

Thank you.

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  1. Abol­ish Tim Eyman’s push polls!

    # by Laurey Hansen-Carl :: February 5th, 2020 at 6:55 PM
  2. Good. Those Advi­so­ry votes annoy the hell out of me.

    # by Mark Noonan :: February 6th, 2020 at 11:57 AM