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 finding||2018 poll finding||2018 election result|
|May 25th-26th, 2021||May 22nd-23rd, 2018||November 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 points||Margin: 16 points||Margin: 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.