Patty Murray vs. Tiffany Smiley, 2022
Patty Murray vs. Tiffany Smiley, 2022

Wash­ing­ton’s senior Unit­ed States Sen­a­tor Pat­ty Mur­ray is in healthy shape for reelec­tion with about a year and a half to go until the 2022 midterm elec­tions are held, a new sur­vey for the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute has found.

53% of a large sam­ple of like­ly 2022 Wash­ing­ton vot­ers sur­veyed by Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Polling this week for NPI said they would vote for Mur­ray, a Demo­c­rat, if the elec­tion was being held today, while 37% said they would back Mur­ray’s declared Repub­li­can oppo­nent Tiffany Smi­ley. 10% said they were not sure.

Mur­ray, a mem­ber of the Sen­ate Demo­c­ra­t­ic lead­er­ship, is a vet­er­an appro­pri­a­tor who chairs the HELP (Health, Edu­ca­tion, Labor & Pen­sions) Com­mit­tee. Mur­ray for­mal­ly announced the launch her 2022 reelec­tion cam­paign last week. The Sen­a­tor is a spon­sor of NPI’s research and advo­ca­cy, though Mur­ray’s cam­paign had no involve­ment in the design or exe­cu­tion of our survey.

Smi­ley is a self-described “farm girl from rur­al Wash­ing­ton” who has a lengthy his­to­ry of advo­ca­cy for vet­er­ans and their fam­i­lies, includ­ing her own hus­band, Scot­ty, who lost his eye­sight while serv­ing Amer­i­ca over­seas in Iraq. Backed by the WSRP, Smi­ley announced her can­di­da­cy for Sen­ate sev­er­al weeks ago.

Our sur­vey of 992 like­ly 2022 Wash­ing­ton State vot­ers was in the field from Tues­day, May 25th through Wednes­day, May 26th, 2021.

It uti­lizes a blend­ed method­ol­o­gy, with auto­mat­ed phone calls to land­lines (50%) and text mes­sage answers from cell phone only respon­dents (50%).

The poll was con­duct­ed by Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Polling for the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute, and has a mar­gin of error of +/- 3.1% at the 95% con­fi­dence interval.

A small­er per­cent­age of respon­dents expressed sat­is­fac­tion with Mur­ray’s job per­for­mance. 40% said they approved, a plu­ral­i­ty, with 36% dis­ap­prov­ing and 24% not sure. 40% may sound some­what fee­ble for a vet­er­an U.S. sen­a­tor, but it does­n’t actu­al­ly dif­fer that much from the his­tor­i­cal norm. As poll­ster Stu­art Elway explained in a 2010 research note writ­ten eleven Mays ago: “Murray’s rat­ings his­tor­i­cal­ly have been mediocre, which is tempt­ing to poten­tial challengers.” 

Mur­ray missed an impor­tant vote today on advanc­ing leg­is­la­tion to estab­lish a bipar­ti­san com­mis­sion to inves­ti­gate the Jan­u­ary 6th attacks. Mur­ray said in a state­ment that she had to return home to attend to a fam­i­ly mat­ter, but would have vot­ed yes had she remained in D.C. (Nei­ther Mur­ray’s vote nor that of Kyrsten Sine­ma’s would have allowed the Sen­ate to break the filibuster.)

Lack­lus­ter job approval rat­ings have not held Mur­ray back at elec­tion time. Mur­ray has nev­er lost a Unit­ed States Sen­ate race, and only one of her reelec­tion vic­to­ries has been by any­thing resem­bling a close mar­gin. When it counts, Wash­ing­ton vot­ers show up for Pat­ty Mur­ray and give her their support.

Repub­li­cans have recent­ly been trum­pet­ing the results of a sur­vey con­duct­ed by Sur­veyUSA for KING5 as evi­dence that Mur­ray is vul­ner­a­ble in 2022. The sur­vey con­tained a ques­tion ask­ing vot­ers whether Mur­ray should or should not run for a sixth term (a plu­ral­i­ty respond­ed in the neg­a­tive). I explained why this ques­tion was prob­lem­at­ic and the results there­fore worth­less ear­li­er this month.

To find out what vot­ers’ views real­ly are, it’s impor­tant to ask a neu­tral ques­tion, and that’s exact­ly what we did in our sur­vey this week. Here’s the word­ing of our job per­for­mance ques­tion and the answers that we received:

QUESTION: Do you approve or dis­ap­prove of Sen­a­tor Pat­ty Mur­ray’s job performance?


  • Approve: 40%
  • Dis­ap­prove: 36%
  • Not sure: 24%

As we can see, vot­ers express a lot more enthu­si­asm for Mur­ray when asked whether they would vote for her or her Repub­li­can opponent:

QUESTION: If the 2022 elec­tion for Unit­ed States Sen­ate were being held today and the can­di­dates were Demo­c­rat Pat­ty Mur­ray and Repub­li­can Tiffany Smi­ley, who would you vote for?


  • Pat­ty Mur­ray: 53%
  • Tiffany Smi­ley: 37%
  • Not sure: 10%

The above is what’s com­mon­ly known as a horser­ace or matchup ques­tion, because it presents a hypo­thet­i­cal to the respon­dents and asks how they would vote. Here, Mur­ray has a com­fort­able six­teen point lead.

What’s inter­est­ing about that num­ber is that it’s the exact same mar­gin we found Sen­a­tor Maria Cantwell ahead of Repub­li­can oppo­nent Susan Hutchi­son by three years ago, with five months to go until the Novem­ber 2018 midterm elec­tions. And, it’s the exact same spread that Cantwell actu­al­ly won by!

Take a look:

2021 poll finding2018 poll finding2018 elec­tion result
May 25th-26th, 2021May 22nd-23rd, 2018Novem­ber 6th, 2018
Pat­ty Mur­ray: 53%Maria Cantwell: 52%Maria Cantwell: 58.43%
Tiffany Smi­ley: 37%Susan Hutchi­son: 36%Susan Hutchi­son: 41.57%
Not sure: 10%Not sure: 12%Total Votes: 3,086,168
Mar­gin: 16 pointsMar­gin: 16 pointsMar­gin: 16.86 points

Giv­en that Mur­ray’s lead over Smi­ley is the same size as Cantwell’s lead over Hutchi­son was after Hutchi­son emerged as Cantwell’s like­ly chal­lenger, we can say that Mur­ray is well posi­tioned to win reelec­tion, at least at this juncture.

The Wash­ing­ton State Repub­li­can Par­ty, Shift­WA, and oth­ers are free to believe that Mur­ray is vul­ner­a­ble and our polling not cred­i­ble if they want. But our track record speaks for itself. We and Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Polling have been work­ing togeth­er to mea­sure pub­lic opin­ion in the Pacif­ic North­west for a long time.

Not only did our 2018 U.S. Sen­ate polling hit the mark three years ago, but our 2020 polling cor­rect­ly fore­shad­owed the result in every sin­gle statewide can­di­date elec­tion. Not just in one, or two, but all of them. Every last one.

It’s impor­tant to note that this find­ing is a snap­shot in time, and the elec­toral envi­ron­ment could change between now and Novem­ber of 2022. So we’ll con­tin­ue to check in with Wash­ing­ton vot­ers peri­od­i­cal­ly between now and then to see if any­thing changes, and pub­lish our find­ings here on the Cas­ca­dia Advocate.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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