Former Seattle City Councilmember Bruce Harrell is heading into the final weeks of the 2021 Seattle mayoral campaign with a substantial, double digit lead over current City Council President Lorena González, a new poll conducted last week for the Northwest Progressive Institute has found.
48% of 617 likely 2021 voters in Seattle said they were voting for Harrell for mayor, while 32% said they were voting for González. 18% said they were not sure and 2% said they would not cast a vote for the city’s top elected position.
Harrell and González were the leaders in NPI’s July 2021 Top Two survey of the Seattle electorate. They prevailed in the August qualifying election, with Harrell receiving 34% and González 32.11%. In our survey, which fielded right before voting began in July, Harrell received 20% and González received 12%.
Unlike in our summer polling, when voters had fifteen candidates to choose from, the percentage of undecided voters here is under a fifth. In fact, it’s half (18%) of what it was back in July (32%). Both candidates have picked up voters who were previously uncommitted, but Harrell has earned more support than González. He’s close to the threshold of majority support, while González is sixteen points back.
González did impressively well in late ballots this summer, cutting a ten point Election Night lead for Harrell into a mere two point deficit by certification.
However, our data suggests Harrell has improved his position since then and is favored to win in November, succeeding incumbent Jenny Durkan as Seattle’s next mayor. González does still have a path to victory, but it’s a narrow one.
This new poll, which was conducted by Change Research for the Northwest Progressive Institute, has a modeled margin of error of 4.1% at the 95% confidence interval. All 617 respondents participated online. The poll was in the field from Tuesday, October 12th, 2021 through Friday, October 15th, 2021.
Follow this link if you’re interested in a detailed primer on the survey’s methodology along with information about who took the poll.
Here are the exact questions that we asked, and the responses that we received:
QUESTION: The candidates for Mayor of Seattle this year are listed below in the order that they will appear on the November general election ballot. Who are you voting for?
[See list as it was shown to respondents]
- Bruce Harrell: 44%
- M. Lorena González: 28%
- Not sure: 28%
FOLLOW-UP QUESTION ASKED OF UNDECIDED VOTERS ONLY: If you had to choose, who would you vote for?
ANSWERS FROM UNDECIDED VOTERS:
- [Still] Not sure: 67%
- Bruce Harrell: 13%
- M. Lorena González: 13%
- Would not vote: 7%
COMBINED ANSWERS, BOTH QUESTIONS:
- Bruce Harrell: 48%
- M. Lorena González: 32%
- Not sure: 18%
- Would not vote: 2%
As we saw in our summer polling, Harrell’s primary source of strength in this local election cycle is older voters. A whopping 66% of those ages sixty-five or older say they are voting for him, while only 20% of that group say they’re voting for González. Harrell is also backed by 55% of voters ages fifty to sixty-four, while 24% of voters in that age bracket are supporting González.
Younger voters, meanwhile, strongly prefer González. 49% of voters ages eighteen to thirty-four are supporting González and 30% are supporting Harrell.
Among voters ages thirty-five to fifty, Harrell has a narrower advantage: 39% are supporting his candidacy and 37% are supporting González’s.
People of color also prefer Harrell to González. 56% of voters of color say they are voting for Harrell, while just 30% say they are voting for González.
Harrell has consistently led in public opinion research polling during this election cycle, including in two independent polls that were conducted last month, so it’s not surprising that he has a lead in our final survey of Seattle.
However, Harrell’s lead here is greater than in either of those polls (conducted for Crosscut/KCTS by Elway and for KOMO by Strategies 360), which suggests that he’s been able to solidify and expand his support in the home stretch.
To overcome Harrell’s current position, González’s team and her allies would need to persuade the vast majority of voters who are still undecided to back her candidacy. They have two weeks left to make their pitch and close the gap.
Harrell, meanwhile, just needs a few more undecided voters to join those already committed to his candidacy, and he’ll have the support he needs to win this race.
Harrell previously served as mayor for a few days four years ago and was a candidate for Mayor of Seattle in 2013, placing fourth in the Top Two election. He was first elected to the Seattle City Council in 2007 and was reelected in 2011 and 2015. He left the Council at the end of 2019 rather than seek another term in a rematch with his 2015 opponent Tammy Morales. (Morales is now on the Council.)
González has won two citywide elections for Seattle City Council by enormous margins, defeating rivals Bill Bradburd in 2015 and Pat Murakami in 2017. (Councilmembers normally serve four year terms, but González had to run again due to Seattle’s 2013 adoption of a new hybrid scheme for council elections, which created seven district-based positions while keeping two at-large positions.)
González explored a bid for Attorney General of Washington State in 2019, but did not move forward with a 2020 campaign after incumbent Bob Ferguson chose to seek a third term as the state’s top law enforcement officer, following Governor Inslee’s decision to seek a third term as the state’s chief executive.
In addition to each having served on the Seattle City Council — including with each other — both Harrell and González are experienced attorneys. Seattle Times reporter Daniel Beekman wrote about their legal work last month as part of a series of excellent profiles he’s been creating for this year’s mayoral race.
NPI’s Ruairi Vaughan previously interviewed Harrell and González about their campaigns and visions for Seattle’s future. You can read the interview with Harrell by following this link and the interview with González by following this link.
González is backed by the city’s Democratic district organizations, unions like UFCW Local 21, UNITE HERE Local 8, and SEIU 775NW, as well as The Stranger, The Urbanist, and Seattle Subway. Harrell is backed by several business organizations, unions like the Seattle Firefighters, several IBEW locals, and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 587, as well as The Seattle Times, the , and Democrats for Diversity and Inclusion.
NPI boardmember Gael Tarleton has endorsed Harrell, while NPI boardmember Jacob Thorpe has endorsed González. (Both reside in Seattle.)
NPI is not aligned with either Harrell or González and does not have an endorsement in the Seattle mayoral race, or any involvement in an independent expenditure supporting or opposing either candidate.
Voting in the November 2021 general will end on November 2nd. Ballots must carry a 11/02/2021 postmark or be in a dropbox by 8 PM to count.
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