Senator Patty Murray speaks at the 2022 Washington State Democratic Convention
Senator Patty Murray delivers an address at the evening gala banquet of the 2022 Washington State Democratic Convention (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

Vot­ers in Wash­ing­ton State’s largest coun­ty are pret­ty hap­py with the job per­for­mance of their Demo­c­ra­t­ic elect­ed offi­cials at the fed­er­al, state, and local lev­els, with Sen­a­tor Pat­ty Mur­ray’s rep­re­sen­ta­tion get­ting the high­est marks over­all, a poll recent­ly con­duct­ed for NPI across all of King Coun­ty has found.

64% of 2022 like­ly King Coun­ty vot­ers sur­veyed said they approved of Mur­ray’s job per­for­mance, while 26% dis­ap­proved. 9% were not sure.

That com­pares to 65% approval / 31% dis­ap­proval rat­ing for Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee, the state’s chief exec­u­tive, who was elect­ed to a third term in 2020.

While Inslee’s approval per­cent­age is as strong as Mur­ray’s, Mur­ray’s net approval (approval minus dis­ap­proval) is four points bet­ter… 38%, to Inslee’s 34%.

That makes Mur­ray the high­est-rat­ed elect­ed offi­cial in the sur­vey, which field­ed from July 22nd until the begin­ning of this month (August 1st).

Also rat­ed in the poll were Pres­i­dent Joe Biden, Vice Pres­i­dent Kamala Har­ris, Sen­a­tor Maria Cantwell, Attor­ney Gen­er­al Bob Fer­gu­son, Com­mis­sion­er of Pub­lic Lands Hilary Franz, King Coun­ty Exec­u­tive Dow Con­stan­tine, King Coun­ty Elec­tions Direc­tor Julie Wise, and King Coun­ty Asses­sor John Wilson.

Every offi­cial was in pos­i­tive ter­ri­to­ry, as you can see from the answers below:

QUESTION: Please indi­cate whether you approve or dis­ap­prove of the fol­low­ing elect­ed offi­cials’ job performance.


Sen­a­tor Pat­ty Mur­ray (Net: 38%)

  • Approve: 64%
  • Dis­ap­prove: 26%
  • Not sure: 9%

Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee (Net: 34%)

  • Approve: 65%
  • Dis­ap­prove: 31%
  • Not sure: 4%

Sen­a­tor Maria Cantwell (Net: 34%)

  • Approve: 59%
  • Dis­ap­prove: 25%
  • Not sure: 16%

King Coun­ty Elec­tions Direc­tor Julie Wise (Net: 30%)

  • Approve: 43%
  • Dis­ap­prove: 13%
  • Not sure: 44%

Attor­ney Gen­er­al Bob Fer­gu­son (Net: 28%)

  • Approve: 52%
  • Dis­ap­prove: 24%
  • Not sure: 24%

King Coun­ty Exec­u­tive Dow Con­stan­tine (Net: 24%)

  • Approve: 50%
  • Dis­ap­prove: 26%
  • Not sure: 24%

Com­mis­sion­er of Pub­lic Lands Hilary Franz (Net: 21%)

  • Approve: 36%
  • Dis­ap­prove: 15%
  • Not sure: 49%

Pres­i­dent Joe Biden (Net: 18%)

  • Approve: 57%
  • Dis­ap­prove: 39%
  • Not sure: 4%

Vice Pres­i­dent Kamala Har­ris (Net: 14%)

  • Approve: 53%
  • Dis­ap­prove: 39%
  • Not sure: 8%

King Coun­ty Asses­sor John Wil­son (Net: 10%)

  • Approve: 26%
  • Dis­ap­prove: 16%
  • Not sure: 58%

Our sur­vey of 687 like­ly 2022 King Coun­ty gen­er­al elec­tion vot­ers was in the field from Fri­day, July 22nd until Tues­day, August 1st, 2022.

The poll was con­duct­ed entire­ly online for the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute by Change Research. The poll has a mod­eled mar­gin of error of 4.0%.

Fol­low this link if you’re inter­est­ed in a detailed primer on the survey’s method­ol­o­gy along with infor­ma­tion about who took the poll.

Although Mar­tin Luther King Jr. Coun­ty is one of the most Demo­c­ra­t­ic juris­dic­tions in the whole coun­try, these find­ings are nonethe­less sig­nif­i­cant. They nice­ly aug­ment the results of the recent Top Two elec­tion in demon­strat­ing that vot­ers pre­fer con­tin­ued Demo­c­ra­t­ic gov­er­nance to a Repub­li­can takeover.

As reg­u­lar read­ers are like­ly aware, Repub­li­cans have spo­ken of 2022 repeat­ed­ly as the Year of the Red Tsuna­mi. That includes not only nation­al Repub­li­cans, but local ones, too. The likes of Tim Eyman, Bri­an Hey­wood, and Caleb Heim­lich have glee­ful­ly fan­ta­sized about the prospect of Repub­li­cans gain­ing majori­ties in not one but both cham­bers of the Legislature.

For that to hap­pen, though, they’d need to be able to win in sub­ur­ban leg­isla­tive dis­tricts like the 30th and 47th, which are most­ly locat­ed in… King County.

And as the just-cer­ti­fied Top Two elec­tion results show, vot­ers in Wash­ing­ton State’s biggest pop­u­la­tion cen­ter sim­ply aren’t inter­est­ed in dump­ing their Demo­c­ra­t­ic rep­re­sen­ta­tion and join­ing up with the Par­ty of Trump.

Vot­ers in King Coun­ty can see that their Demo­c­ra­t­ic U.S. sen­a­tors are part of a razor slim major­i­ty that has suc­cess­ful­ly deliv­ered the Amer­i­can Res­cue Plan, the Infra­struc­ture Invest­ment and Jobs Act, the CHIPS and Sci­ence Act, the Hon­or­ing Our PACT Act for vet­er­ans, a long over­due postal reform bill, the ground­break­ing cli­mate and health focused Infla­tion Reduc­tion Act, and the con­fir­ma­tion of the most diverse slate of judges ever to be nom­i­nat­ed to the fed­er­al bench, includ­ing new U.S. Supreme Court Jus­tice Ketan­ji Brown Jackson.

In a field of eigh­teen can­di­dates for Unit­ed States Sen­ate this month, a whop­ping 70.09% of King Coun­ty vot­ers this month backed Pat­ty Mur­ray. Tiffany Smi­ley did­n’t even crack twen­ty per­cent coun­ty­wide in the Top Two election.

So long as Mur­ray keeps Smi­ley at bay in big swing coun­ties like Sno­homish, Pierce, Kit­sap, and What­com, she will be on track to eas­i­ly win anoth­er term thanks to the mas­sive lev­el of sup­port she enjoys in King County.

Our team sees no fea­si­ble path to vic­to­ry for Smi­ley right now. That does­n’t mean Smi­ley is cer­tain to lose — any­thing can hap­pen in pol­i­tics — but there would have to be a polit­i­cal earth­quake to cre­ate an open­ing for Smiley.

There used to be a time — and it was­n’t even that long ago — when Repub­li­cans were com­pet­i­tive in King Coun­ty. Vot­ers once entrust­ed gov­er­nance of the coun­ty to Repub­li­cans like John Spell­man and Louise Miller. (Exec­u­tive Spell­man notably went on to become the last Repub­li­can to win the gov­er­nor­ship, in 1980.)

Those days are over. Repub­li­cans have almost com­plete­ly for­feit­ed the are­na of King Coun­ty pol­i­tics to the Democ­rats. Not a sin­gle Repub­li­can holds coun­ty­wide office any­more, or rep­re­sents the coun­ty in Con­gress. No leg­isla­tive dis­trict with a major­i­ty of its precincts in King Coun­ty has Repub­li­can rep­re­sen­ta­tion. It is not uncom­mon to see two Democ­rats fac­ing off in con­tests in King Coun­ty, as was the case last year when Joe Nugyen chal­lenged Dow Con­stan­tine for Executive.

It is nev­er­the­less pos­si­ble to win statewide while los­ing King Coun­ty, as for­mer Repub­li­can Sec­re­tary of State Kim Wyman demon­strat­ed three times.

But for Slade Gor­ton’s “boa con­stric­tor strat­e­gy” to work, a Repub­li­can can­di­date like Smi­ley needs to be able to appeal to at least some of the Demo­c­ra­t­ic-lean­ing vot­ers in King Coun­ty. That’s impor­tant to build­ing a statewide major­i­ty of vot­ers. Even peel­ing off just a few vot­ers in King Coun­ty can make a difference.

Wyman, for exam­ple, out­per­formed guber­na­to­r­i­al can­di­date Rob McKen­na in 2012 in King Coun­ty. He got 37.64% of the vote; she got 39.05%. (Wyman eked out a nar­row vic­to­ry that year over Demo­c­ra­t­ic rival Kath­leen Drew.) Wyman also out­per­formed Bill Bryant in 2016, get­ting 41.3% while Bryant got 32.15%.

It is hard to see Tiffany Smi­ley even equal­ing Bryan­t’s per­for­mance this fall.

Repub­li­cans have tout­ed Smi­ley as a per­fect foil for Mur­ray, but aside from rais­ing a lot of mon­ey, her cam­paign has fall­en com­plete­ly flat, with a huge empha­sis on boil­er­plate in cam­paign mate­ri­als and inef­fec­tive cri­tiques based pri­mar­i­ly on the longevi­ty of Mur­ray’s length of ser­vice in office. Mur­ray’s cam­paign, mean­while, has made sure vot­ers know that Smi­ley is opposed to repro­duc­tive rights and would put Mitch McConnell back in charge of the Unit­ed States Senate.

No inde­pen­dent pub­lic poll has shown Smi­ley close to Mur­ray, let alone ahead.

Our research sug­gests a slight­ly clos­er race than either Crosscut/Elway or Sur­veyUSA and its part­ners, prompt­ing right wing talk show host Jason Rantz to recent­ly cite our polling on-air when pro­mot­ing Smi­ley’s candidacy.

Rantz neglect­ed to men­tion, of course, that we have con­sis­tent­ly assessed that Tiffany Smi­ley is not putting Wash­ing­ton in play for the Repub­li­cans every sin­gle time we’ve released one of our U.S. Sen­ate poll findings.

Even if Smi­ley were run­ning the best pos­si­ble cam­paign Wash­ing­to­ni­ans have seen from a Repub­li­can in the twen­ty-first cen­tu­ry, she’d still have to con­tend with Mur­ray’s advan­tage in King Coun­ty. As today’s polling release shows, vot­ers here are not vot­ing for Mur­ray reluc­tant­ly. More than three in five have a pos­i­tive view of Mur­ray’s job per­for­mance, and Mur­ray has a bet­ter net job per­for­mance rat­ing than any oth­er high pro­file elect­ed offi­cial around. That is a key rea­son why Mur­ray is well posi­tioned to eas­i­ly pre­vail over Smi­ley this autumn.

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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