Categories: Elections

As voting begins in the 2021 Seattle mayoral race, Bruce Harrell has a sixteen point lead

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.

A visu­al of NPI’s gen­er­al elec­tion poll find­ing for May­or of Seat­tle, 2021

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]

INITIAL ANSWERS:

  • 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 and 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 Met­ro­pol­i­tan Demo­c­ra­t­ic Club, 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.

Andrew Villeneuve

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