November 2021: Patty Murray vs. Tiffany Smiley, 2022
Visualization of NPI's November 2021 poll finding showing Patty Murray with a thirteen point lead over Tiffany Smiley

Wash­ing­ton’s senior Unit­ed States Sen­a­tor Pat­ty Mur­ray remains well posi­tioned for reelec­tion to anoth­er term next year, accord­ing to NPI’s lat­est statewide research poll. 50% of 909 like­ly 2022 midterm vot­ers sur­veyed last week said they’d vote for Mur­ray, the Demo­c­ra­t­ic incum­bent, if the elec­tion were being held today, while 37% said they would vote for Repub­li­can chal­lenger Tiffany Smiley.

13% were not sure.

November 2021: Patty Murray vs. Tiffany Smiley, 2022
Visu­al­iza­tion of NPI’s Novem­ber 2021 poll find­ing show­ing Pat­ty Mur­ray with a thir­teen point lead over Tiffany Smiley

When we last checked in on this race back in the spring, Mur­ray had a six­teen point lead over Smi­ley with 10% unde­cid­ed. Mur­ray’s lead has now been shaved to thir­teen points, but it remains a com­fort­able dou­ble dig­it lead nonetheless.

Smi­ley is Mur­ray’s high­est pro­file oppo­nent. She has the back­ing of the Wash­ing­ton State Repub­li­can Par­ty and nation­al Repub­li­can fig­ures like Tom Cot­ton, who Smi­ley proud­ly announced had endorsed her cam­paign yesterday.

Smi­ley’s recent cam­paign updates have focused on oppos­ing Pres­i­dent Biden’s Build Back Bet­ter agen­da, call­ing for “bor­der secu­ri­ty” (should­n’t that have been achieved dur­ing the Trump years when Repub­li­cans were in pow­er?) and bash­ing Mur­ray and Biden over infla­tion not keep­ing up with wage growth.

Smi­ley’s cam­paign has also recent­ly cir­cu­lat­ed a clip from Flori­da’s Rick Scott (the head of the Nation­al Repub­li­can Sen­a­to­r­i­al Com­mit­tee) on Fox say­ing that he thinks Repub­li­cans have a shot at defeat­ing Mur­ray in Washington.

Our polling, how­ev­er, sug­gests that such talk is sim­ply wish­ful think­ing on Scott and the Repub­li­can Par­ty’s part. They’d cer­tain­ly like for Democ­rats to believe that Mur­ray’s reelec­tion in Wash­ing­ton is in jeopardy.

But right now, it’s not. Mur­ray con­tin­ues to have a dou­ble dig­it lead over Smiley.

And what’s more, our polling also finds that Mur­ray’s approval rat­ing has improved since May. It was 40% six months ago; now it’s 46%. 39% dis­ap­prove, com­pared to 36% in May. Mur­ray’s net approval has increased by three per­cent­age points. That sug­gests more vot­ers are tak­ing notice of Mur­ray’s work in the Senate.

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


  • Approve: 46%
  • Dis­ap­prove: 39%
  • Not sure: 14%

While there were sig­nif­i­cant­ly few­er “not sure” respons­es to the job per­for­mance ques­tion, there were slight­ly more “not sure” respons­es to the hypo­thet­i­cal matchup ques­tion. Here are the horser­ace num­bers again:

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: 50%
  • Tiffany Smi­ley: 37%
  • Not sure: 13%

The only dif­fer­ence between our May and Novem­ber find­ings is that slight­ly few­er respon­dents are com­mit­ted to Mur­ray. Smi­ley’s sup­port, mean­while, has­n’t budged. It was 37% back in the spring, and it’s 37% now.

37% is also the per­cent­age that Don­ald Trump received in our Octo­ber and May sur­veys last year, in the lead-up to the 2020 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. He lost big.

We con­sis­tent­ly see the num­ber 37% in our polling, because since ear­ly 2017, that’s been about the size of the loy­al Repub­li­can por­tion of the elec­torate in Wash­ing­ton State. Any Repub­li­can run­ning statewide in a top of the tick­et race in the Ever­green State should be able to get at least 37%, in oth­er words.

No Repub­li­can has won a U.S. Sen­ate race in Wash­ing­ton since the late Slade Gor­ton last won reelec­tion in 1994. And no Repub­li­can Sen­ate can­di­date has knocked out a Demo­c­ra­t­ic incum­bent since Gor­ton rode Rea­gan’s coat­tails and sent the leg­endary retire­ment War­ren G. Mag­nu­son into retire­ment in 1980.

Our find­ing is pret­ty sim­i­lar to Sur­veyUSA’s horser­ace find­ing from a cou­ple weeks ago. On behalf of KING5, Sur­veyUSA sur­veyed 542 reg­is­tered vot­ers, and found 49% sup­port for Mur­ray, 31% sup­port for Smi­ley, and 20% unde­cid­ed.

The gap between Mur­ray and Smi­ley was even greater than in our polling, with an eigh­teen point lead for Mur­ray due to Smi­ley’s mediocre showing.

Wash­ing­ton is con­sid­ered “Safe Demo­c­ra­t­ic” by pun­dits for a rea­son. It reli­ably votes Demo­c­ra­t­ic in top of the tick­et races, regard­less of the nation­al polit­i­cal cli­mate, and has for decades. Smi­ley is a good fundrais­er and is try­ing to run an active cam­paign that excites the base. But so far, she is not out­polling Don­ald Trump, and she would have to do that to have even a small chance of winning.

We’ll con­tin­ue to mon­i­tor the race to see if any­thing changes.

Our sur­vey of 909 like­ly 2022 Wash­ing­ton State vot­ers was in the field from Wednes­day, Novem­ber 10th through Thurs­day, Novem­ber 11th, 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 +/- 3.3% at the 95% con­fi­dence interval.

More infor­ma­tion about the sur­vey’s method­ol­o­gy is avail­able here.

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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