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.
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.