Crosscut/Elway today published findings from a statewide poll looking ahead to the November 2022 general election that suggest Democrats remain poised to do well, as they showed they were capable of in last month’s Top Two election.
Notably, Democratic United States Senator Patty Murray leads Republican challenger Tiffany Smiley 50% to 37%, with 12% undecided.
Those numbers are almost identical to our November 2021 statewide poll, which found Murray at 50%, Smiley at 37%, and 13% undecided. In our subsequent statewide polls, Murray has maintained an advantage over Smiley, always garnering majority support. Likewise, in last month’s Top Two election, Murray won a majority. She is on track for reelection in a few weeks.
Pollster Stuart Elway characterized this year’s races as having “tightened up, which is typical at this time of year as more voters start to focus on the election.”
However, our own polling suggests the tightening in Washington State’s U.S. Senate race happened months ago. We’ve asked about the U.S. Senate race four times this cycle so far: in May of 2021, November of 2021, February of 2022, and June of 2022. Murray’s lead was sixteen points to start, dropped to thirteen in November of 2021, shrank to nine in February, and widened to eleven in June.
If Murray’s advantage is indeed about thirteen points at this juncture, that is a better spread for her than what we have found in either of our polls this year.
Tiffany Smiley had plenty of competition to take on Patty Murray in the August Top Two election, but in the general election she’ll be Murray’s sole opponent.
If we add up the votes received by every candidate identifying in some way as a Democrat last month (including Murray, of course) and then compare those with the votes received by every candidate identifying in some way as a Republican (including Smiley), we see a spread of between thirteen and fourteen points (55.3% for all Democrats, 41.47% for all Republicans).
A thirteen point spread in Washington’s U.S. Senate race a little over a month after certification is entirely consistent with what we saw in the actual election a few weeks ago that millions of people voted in. There won’t be a “not sure” option on the general election ballot, of course, but it won’t be surprising if Murray gets some of those undecided voters and Smiley gets some.
Murray’s margin over Smiley may not as be as great as her margin over Republican (now independent) Chris Vance in 2016, but she appears on course to prevail more comfortably over Smiley than she did over Dino Rossi in 2010.
Since we don’t know the future, we can’t say what will happen, only what might happen, but this does seem like the most probable scenario.
Two Republican-aligned pollsters have recently put out data showing Smiley within single digits of Murray. This new finding from Crosscut/Elway confirms that those surveys are outliers. The Trafalgar survey, in particular, is just not credible, as I explained here on The Cascadia Advocate a few weeks ago.
Meanwhile, on the generic ballot, Elway found that Democrats continue to enjoy an advantage. “Of those surveyed, 49% said they wanted Democrats to keep control of Congress, including 39% who said that was ‘important.’ Another 41% said they’d like Republicans to take at least one chamber of Congress, including 29% who called it ‘important’ to do so,” Crosscut’s Joseph O’Sullivan reported.
The special election for Secretary of State is a different story than the U.S. Senate race. There, Crosscut/Elway found Democratic incumbent Steve Hobbs barely ahead of independent challenger Julie Anderson, the current Pierce County Auditor. Hobbs got 31%, while Anderson got 29% and 40% were undecided.
Anderson ended up as Hobbs’ general election opponent due to Republican vote-splitting. Republican candidates Mark Miloscia, Bob Hagglund, and Keith Wagoner fractured the Republican vote so effectively that they cancelled each other out, setting up a general election ballot with no Republican standard bearer on it.
Hobbs and Anderson are unknown to many voters across Washington in part because they are running statewide in a general election for the first time.
Hobbs, appointed by Governor Jay Inslee last autumn, is the first Democratic Secretary of State in more than fifty years. To retain the office, he needs to at a minimum consolidate the support of Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters, who are a majority of the electorate in Washington.
Hobbs received only 42% of the vote in Snohomish County, home to the 44th District he used to represent, and only 30% of the vote in Pierce County, which Anderson represents, in the Top Two election. He did much better in King County, garnering over 55% of the vote against Anderson and six others.
But as Kim Wyman showed repeatedly, it’s possible to win an election for Secretary of State while losing King County. She did it three times, in fact: in 2012, in 2016, and in 2020. Anderson will try to use Wyman’s electoral recipe — Slade Gorton’s boa constrictor strategy — to upset Hobbs this year.
However, Hobbs can hold Anderson off if he performs well enough in the state’s swing counties, which include not only Pierce and Snohomish, but also Whatcom, Skagit, Island, Kitsap, and Thurston. Snohomish will be crucial: Hobbs is from there and Snohomish can be easier for a Democrat to capture than Pierce is.
We at NPI will be polling both of these contests next month in our final statewide poll of the cycle with Public Policy Polling. We understand that KING5, The Seattle Times, WSU, and the UW also have one more statewide survey planned in conjunction with SurveyUSA. So we will be getting at least two more credible datsets for each of these contests before General Election Day 2022.