NPI's Cascadia Advocate

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

Sunday, October 25th, 2020

Voters likely to sustain state’s new sex ed law by approving Referendum 90, NPI poll finds

A major­i­ty of Wash­ing­ton vot­ers sup­port the state’s new com­pre­hen­sive sex­u­al health edu­ca­tion law and are vot­ing to keep it the law of the land, a recent statewide sur­vey con­duct­ed for the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute has found.

56% of like­ly Wash­ing­ton State vot­ers said they were vot­ing “Approved” on Ref­er­en­dum 90, defy­ing the right wing cam­paign that is seek­ing to over­turn the law, while just 33% said they are vot­ing “Reject­ed”. 11% were not sure.

These num­bers are an encour­ag­ing sign for the Safe & Healthy Youth Wash­ing­ton Coali­tion, which is work­ing to defend the law. (NPI is a mem­ber of the coali­tion.) They indi­cate that an increas­ing num­ber of vot­ers have a pos­i­tive view of the law, prime spon­sored by Sen­a­tor Claire Wil­son (D‑30th Dis­trict: Fed­er­al Way).

Back in the spring, when we read like­ly vot­ers the bal­lot title, 54% said they would vote “Approved” if the elec­tion were being held then, and 34% said they would vote reject­ed, while 12% were not sure.

As of mid-Octo­ber, there were slight­ly more vot­ers in the “Approved” camp, few­er in the “Reject­ed” camp, and few­er who are not sure. That’s good news across the board for pro­gres­sives, and bad news for the state’s right wing.

Here’s the text of the ques­tion we asked, and the responses:

QUESTION: Ref­er­en­dum 90, on the cur­rent statewide bal­lot, con­cerns com­pre­hen­sive sex­u­al health edu­ca­tion. The offi­cial descrip­tion is as fol­lows: This bill would require school dis­tricts to adopt or devel­op, con­sis­tent with state stan­dards, com­pre­hen­sive age-appro­pri­ate sex­u­al health edu­ca­tion, as defined, for all stu­dents, and excuse stu­dents if their par­ents request. Are you vot­ing Approved or Reject­ed on this referendum?


  • Vot­ing Approved: 56%
  • Vot­ing Reject­ed: 33%
  • Not Sure: 11%

Our sur­vey of six hun­dred and ten like­ly 2020 Wash­ing­ton State vot­ers was in the field from Wednes­day, Octo­ber 14th through Thurs­day, Octo­ber 15th.

It uti­lizes a blend­ed method­ol­o­gy, with auto­mat­ed phone calls to land­lines and text mes­sage answers from cell phone only respondents.

The poll was con­duct­ed by Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Polling for the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute, and has a mar­gin of error of +/- 4.0% at the 95% con­fi­dence level.

Repub­li­cans — from Caleb Heim­lich and Tim Eyman to J.T. Wilcox and Mark Schoesler — have all seem­ing­ly con­vinced them­selves that Democ­rats set them­selves up for fail­ure by adopt­ing ESSB 5395. But that’s just not so.

Repub­li­can activists and par­ty offi­cials may not like the idea of kids being able to receive age-appro­pri­ate, sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly accu­rate sex edu­ca­tion no mat­ter what zip code they live in, but most Wash­ing­to­ni­ans do. They under­stand and appre­ci­ate that knowl­edge is pow­er. Young peo­ple unques­tion­ably ben­e­fit from learn­ing about affir­ma­tive con­sent and respect­ful, healthy relationships.

The actu­al num­ber of vot­ers who sup­port com­pre­hen­sive sex ed in prin­ci­ple is even high­er than the per­cent­age of vot­ers who are plan­ning to vote for Ref­er­en­dum 90 this year. When we asked like­ly Wash­ing­ton vot­ers a year ago if they sup­port­ed sex ed, 67% said they some­what or strong­ly sup­port­ed it, while only 22% said they were some­what or strong­ly opposed.

QUESTION: The Wash­ing­ton State Super­in­ten­dent of Pub­lic Instruc­tion has asked the Wash­ing­ton State Leg­is­la­ture to adopt leg­is­la­tion requir­ing all Wash­ing­ton state schools to teach inclu­sive, evi­dence-informed, sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly accu­rate, com­pre­hen­sive sex­u­al health edu­ca­tion, which must include “affir­ma­tive con­sent” cur­ricu­lum. Do you strong­ly sup­port, some­what sup­port, some­what oppose or strong­ly oppose this legislation?


  • Sup­port: 67% 
    • Strong­ly Sup­port: 49%
    • Some­what Sup­port: 18%
  • Oppose: 22%
    • Some­what Oppose:  7%
    • Strong­ly Oppose: 15%
  • Not Sure: 11%

The answers you get always depend on the ques­tions you ask, and the R‑90 bal­lot title isn’t the best descrip­tion of the issue, so it’s not sur­pris­ing that the bal­lot title does­n’t get the same enthu­si­as­tic response. How­ev­er, if just half of the “not sure” vot­ers join the “Approved” camp, Safe & Healthy Youth Wash­ing­ton would still win by a huge spread of about twen­ty points — an elec­toral landslide.

It’s inter­est­ing that the per­cent­age of respon­dents who said they were not sure after hav­ing been read the bal­lot title this month is the same per­cent­age of respon­dents who said they were not sure a year ago, when we asked about sup­port for com­pre­hen­sive sex­u­al health edu­ca­tion using our own wording.

Should Ref­er­en­dum 90 be approved next month, as it appears it will be, the law will go into effect. Many school dis­tricts in Wash­ing­ton State already teach com­pre­hen­sive sex­u­al health edu­ca­tion; those that do not will need to com­ply with the law. Local school boards will be able to decide what cur­ricu­lum should be taught, but the cho­sen cur­ricu­lum must abide by state standards.

Vot­ing in the 2020 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion is cur­rent­ly in progress and is set to con­clude on Novem­ber 3rd, 2020 at 8 PM Pacif­ic in Wash­ing­ton State.

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One Comment

  1. Andrew, I appre­ci­ate that you put both sides in this arti­cle, most papers don’t. The title and the word­ing does not reflect the posi­tion of 266,000 sign­ers of the peti­tion plac­ing the mea­sure on the bal­lot. Ref­er­en­dums often act as a dou­ble neg­a­tives, but this is much worse. If cit­i­zens read the OSPI guide­lines, they would know that mate­ri­als in com­pli­ance would not be age appro­pri­ate, look at who is doing the train­ing for these pro­grams or ask for schools to doc­u­ment behav­ior and mon­i­tor results after the class­es, this mea­sure would be sound­ly rejected.

    # by LeAnna Benn :: October 26th, 2020 at 6:52 PM

One Ping

  1. […] The same result is like­ly this year with sex edu­ca­tion. Repub­li­cans are run­ning on their oppo­si­tion. But NPI/PPP found fifty-six per­cent in favor of Ref­er­en­dum 90, approv­ing sex­u­al health…. […]

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