Patty Murray maintains double digit lead over Tiffany Smiley for U.S. Senate, NPI poll finds

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.

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 24% 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.

Andrew Villeneuve

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