In ten days, Washington State’s 2022 general election will be certified and the final results of this year’s midterm elections cycle will become available.
With the number of ballots awaiting processing down to just 51,585 statewide and all major races called as of press time, it’s a good time to revisit our poll findings and examine to what extent they anticipated the outcomes in the actual returns tallied by elections officials. While polls cannot predict how elections will turn out, they can suggest what might happen. This is a critically important distinction that we draw on a frequent basis here at NPI, as regular readers know, especially in our poll finding analyses and our research polling retrospectives.
Over the past two years, NPI commissioned five statewide polls, all of which looked at our U.S. Senate race and three of which looked at the special election for Secretary of State. We also commissioned two countywide polls looking at the contest for King County Prosecutor plus King County Charter Amendment 1 (even-year elections) and King County Proposition 1 (conservation futures levy).
Additionally, we fielded congressional polls in Washington’s 3rd and 8th Districts.
Finally, our statewide polls asked voters which party’s ticket they would support for Congress and Legislature without naming specific candidates.
Since we’re now at a juncture where we can properly compare our electoral research to the increasingly complete unofficial results, let’s dive in and see how the returns align with our polling this cycle.
United States Senate, Washington
What our polling found: Every poll we commissioned of our state’s United States Senate race this cycle found Democratic incumbent Patty Murray comfortably ahead of Republican challenger Tiffany Smiley. Murray received at least 50% support in each of our surveys and led by margins of sixteen, thirteen, nine, eleven, and ten points, respectively. We assessed, repeatedly, that Murray was well positioned to win another term, even when Republican firms were putting out garbage data that falsely showed a tied or extremely close race.
What happened in the election: Patty Murray is winning easily. As of the time this post was written, Murray had 57.23% of the vote statewide. Murray’s Republican opponent Tiffany Smiley had 42.55% of the vote.
Analysis: As we can see, our final poll nailed Smiley’s performance, finding her at 42% — and as mentioned, Smiley has 42.55% of the vote. The poll also correctly ascertained that Murray was ahead by a comfortable double digit margin.
The 6% who were undecided in our survey came home to Murray — if you add that group of undecided voters to Murray’s 52%, you get 56%, which is close to the percentage of the vote that Murray actually has in the election.
Murray is winning every county in Western Washington except for Mason, Grays Harbor, Pacific, Lewis, Cowlitz, and Skamania in Southwest Washington.
Smiley is winning every county in Central and Eastern Washington.
Smiley is getting blown out in the state’s populous heart of King County, where nearly three-fourths of voters are backing Murray’s reelection.
Our October-November King County polling found that Murray remained very popular in King County, indicating that Tiffany Smiley’s ads had utterly failed to dent her support among voters in the state’s vitally important population center, which represents a big slice of the total Seattle media market.
After we published our King County finding, Republican operative Alex Hays implied that our research should not be taken seriously, snickering on Twitter: “It is a bit funny the Seattle liberals polled king county only for one of the two polls being used as proof.” (Hays is, or was, apparently unaware that NPI is based in Redmond and has executive and board leadership that isn’t from Seattle.)
If Hays had taken our research seriously, then he’d have been able to offer cogent analysis himself. Instead, he relied on a ridiculous rating from RealClearPolitics and declared on-air to KIRO7 viewers that the race was “fifty-fifty” when credible polling said it definitely wasn’t, as you can see from watching this story.
“I think we’re seeing volatility and I think we’re seeing some tightening, and that’s not unusual coming down close to the wire,” said Democratic strategist Crystal Fincher.
“I think we’re at 50–50, which is very surprising to me. I had no expectation of feeling that way even two weeks ago,” said Republican strategist Alex Hays.
Recent polls showing the race within a couple of points come from right-leaning polling firms.
“It’s not that close. The race is currently nine to 12 points, give or take,” said Andrew Villeneuve of the Northwest Progressive Institute. The institute commissioned a poll last month that showed Murray up 10 points.
He questions the methodology of the most recent polls, and says they’re timed to motivate Republicans to feel they’re on the cusp of victory.
“That is the strategy, it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s all a psychological game,” said Villeneuve.
Unlike other research polling partnerships, NPI and Public Policy Polling (our statewide pollster) kept things consistent. Every one of our five polls this cycle was conducted using the same hybrid methodology and with the same universe: likely November 2022 voters. We never switched from registered to likely voters — we polled likely voters only through the entirety of the cycle.
And each of the questions underpinning our U.S. Senate findings were simple head-to-head questions, i.e. If the election for U.S. Senate were being held today, would you vote for Democrat Patty Murray or Republican Tiffany Smiley?
The contest has been described in recent media coverage as “volatile,” “tightening,” or “tough” for Murray. None of those descriptors are accurate.
Much of the polling in this race came at the end. NPI and PPP were the only research partnership to poll the contest five times, and our polls were strategically spread out through the cycle at seasonal increments (May of 2021, November of 2021, February of 2022, June of 2022, and last month… October of 2022).
As a consequence, NPI has a gauge of where Murray and Smiley were at every phase of the race. With Murray having achieved 50% or better in every NPI survey and Smiley always behind by at least nine to ten points, and with most of the election results now in hand showing this polling was spot on, we can say with confidence that Murray was never in any danger of losing to Smiley.
Secretary of State
What our polling found: Our three statewide surveys this year suggested a very fluid and unsettled contest for Secretary of State. Here’s a summary:
- In our February poll, incumbent Steve Hobbs had a narrow lead over declared challengers Keith Wagoner (Republican) and Julie Anderson (unaffiliated) in a hypothetical three-way race.
- In our June poll, Hobbs had a plurality of the vote against seven opponents, Wagoner and Anderson included, with all of those opponents in the single digits. The poll indicated that any one of at least half of those seven challengers could be Hobbs’ general election opponent. Anderson was ultimately able to get past all of the Republicans because the Republican voters splintered, dividing into roughly equal proportions for Wagoner and two other Republicans: Mark Miloscia and Bob Hagglund.
- In our October poll, Hobbs and Anderson were initially tied until we asked about write-in Republican candidate Brad Klippert. We found in a follow-up question that Klippert’s presence in the race hurt Anderson because her path to victory required the support of ultra MAGA voters who were happy to write in the name of a true Republican once informed of that option.
What happened in the election: Hobbs won, aided by Klippert’s write-in candidacy, just as our polling suggested could happen. Hobbs currently has 49.88% of the vote, Anderson has 45.80%, and 4.31% of the vote is for a write-in candidate (presumably, most of those are for Brad Klippert).
The current total number of write-in votes is 125,310. That slightly exceeds Hobbs’ 11/18/2022 lead over Anderson, an advantage of 118,536 votes.
Analysis: Last month, in our post announcing the Secretary of State finding, I noted: “Hobbs’ base of support looks rather solid, while Anderson’s coalition looks awfully shaky. To win this contest, Anderson needs Republican and independent voters behind her, since Washington is a Democratic leaning state and most Democratic voters are backing Hobbs along with many independents.”
In a subsequent passage, I added: “If even a small percentage of Republican voters choose Klippert over Anderson, her path to victory could vanish, putting the kibosh on Anderson’s chances.”
Had all those write-in voters chosen Anderson, Hobbs and Anderson would be separated by just a few thousand votes out of millions cast right now. Anderson would be ahead. However, over a hundred thousand mostly Republican voters gravitated to ultra MAGA candidate Brad Klippert’s write-in campaign, which was endorsed and promoted by the Washington State Republican Party and its locals.
The dynamics of this contest would undoubtedly have been very, very different if Anderson had run as a Democrat. By choosing to run as an unaffiliated candidate, she made it easy for the Washington State Democratic Party and Democratic voters to rally behind Steve Hobbs, and found herself dependent on fickle ultra MAGA Republican voters for viability in the general election. That’s not a position a candidate committed to the defense of democracy should want to be in.
Congress, 8th Congressional District
What our polling found: We polled Washington’s 8th Congressional District in an unreleased survey that fielded in June of 2022 with Public Policy Polling, finding Democratic incumbent Kim Schrier with a three-point lead over Republican Matt Larkin in a hypothetical head-to-head general election matchup. We also found Democratic voters strongly united behind Schrier for the Top Two. Schrier received 47% in the survey, while Larkin got 44%. 9% were not sure.
What happened in the election: Larkin, an unsuccessful candidate for Attorney General in 2020, was able to edge fellow Republicans Reagan Dunn and Jesse Jensen in the August Top Two election. He then faced Schrier in the general election. Schrier is prevailing with 53.21% of the vote; Larkin has 46.46%.
Analysis: Kim Schrier has now won three consecutive competitive contests for Congress in Washington’s 8th Congressional District, in two different incarnations (the 8th was redrawn late last year as part of the state’s 2021 redistricting exercise). Schrier made the defense of reproductive rights a key theme of her campaign. She even released an ad on the same day as the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision was announced denouncing it as a travesty.
In Larkin, Schrier had a first-rate foil: an out-of-touch, extreme ultra MAGA Republican who’d been caught on tape saying he was in alignment with Marjorie Taylor Greene and declaring that 2022 wasn’t a time for moderation.
Groups allied with Schrier also seized on Larkin’s support for a nationwide abortion ban with no exceptions. Groups allied with Larkin tried to turn the tables with their own attack ads, but their efforts failed, and Schrier improved on her 2020 performance against Jensen to cruise past Larkin to reelection, reeling in around twice as many of the not sure voters as Larkin.
Congress, 3rd Congressional District
What our polling found: We polled Washington’s 3rd Congressional District in September of 2022 with Public Policy Polling, finding Democratic hopeful Marie Gluesenkamp Perez within three points of ultra MAGA Republican rival Joe Kent. In the final head-to-head question in our survey, Kent received 47% and Gluesenkamp Perez received 44%. 9% said they were undecided.
What happened in the election: Gluesenkamp Perez narrowly defeated Kent in what the national mass media has dubbed as one of the most stunning upsets this cycle. Gluesenkamp Perez currently has 50.17% of the vote, while Kent has 49.27%. Just 2,877 votes currently separate the candidates, with ten days until certification on November 28th. Gluesenkamp Perez is the projected winner, with Kent’s momentum in late ballots having sputtered out.
Analysis: According to the FiveThirtyEight aggregator, NPI was the only organization to publicly and independently poll Washington’s 3rd Congressional District between the August Top Two election and the November general election.
Our research — cited by The New York Times, Mother Jones, and Catholic News Agency — confirmed that the Marie Gluesenkamp Perez campaign’s previously published internal polling was accurate, and that Marie was running a competitive campaign with the serious possibility of an upset. Postmortems filed since the race was called for Gluesenkamp Perez, like this one, have used language suggesting “virtually no one” saw Gluesenkamp Perez’s victory coming.
But that’s actually not true. The campaign’s polling and our independent polling showed Gluesenkamp Perez could win, and inspired many people to invest in the race, despite the DCCC’s lack of interest in doing more than spectating.
In electoral polling, the magic number of fifty is more important than the margin. If a favored candidate (in this case, Kent) is polling several points below fifty, it’s a sure indicator of trouble for that candidate. It was clear from our poll that Kent didn’t have this contest locked up. His high negatives and Marie’s relatability created an opening for a Democratic victory. MGP was able to win over Republican and independent voters by demonstrating that she was willing and ready to provide the effective representation the district deserved and needed.
The final paragraph of our analysis concluded:
“The 44% who back Gluesenkamp Perez seem committed to her candidacy. The vast majority of voters who say they’d vote for Kent also seem pretty committed. That leaves the undecided voters. If Gluesenkamp Perez can win over enough of them, she can win this very unusual contest. It won’t be easy… but a Democratic victory in WA-03 this cycle is an achievable objective.”
King County Prosecuting Attorney
What our polling found: We polled the 2022 King County Prosecuting Attorney contest twice: once in the summer and again in the autumn, the week before Election Day. In the summer, we found rivals Leesa Manion and Jim Ferrell tied initially, but Manion’s biographical highlights resonated more with “not sure” respondents than Ferrell’s. In the autumn, we found Manion and Ferrell about tied again — however, Manion led among those respondents who had already voted.
What happened in the election: Leesa Manion easily defeated Jim Ferrell and will become King County’s next Prosecuting Attorney, succeeding Dan Satterberg. Manion has 57.58% of the vote as of press time, and Ferrell had 41.97%.
Analysis: The position of King County Prosecuting Attorney is “nonpartisan,” which means the candidates’ names appear on the ballot with no party labels. “Nonpartisan” races are tougher to poll because there tends to be a lot more undecided voters than in partisan races.
We knew this going in, and designed surveys that asked more than just a simple “who are you voting for” horserace question. The follow-up question we asked in the summer, for instance, showed that voters gravitated to Manion over Ferrell when they learned about the candidates’ backgrounds.
That was evidence that Manion was the stronger candidate of the two, with a greater appeal among voters, much to Ferrell’s annoyance and displeasure.
Although the candidates were essentially tied in the autumn aggregate finding, Manion’s victory was once again foreshadowed within our data.
Crucially, she held a lead among those voters who had already voted, whereas Ferrell’s advantage was with those who were planning to vote. And that wasn’t the only “tell”: Manion also led among not sure voters who responded to a follow-up prompt to pick a contender (24% to Ferrell’s 19%) after being shown information from the candidates’ voters pamphlet statements.
33% of the respondents who had already voted said couldn’t recall who they had voted for in the Prosecuting Attorney race, which impacted the topline results. Many those voters may have picked Manion but then couldn’t remember their decision. Manion’s strength in Seattle and North Lake Washington / Eastside precincts, something we saw in the poll’s crosstabs, was crucial to her success. As you can see from the chart below of election night precinct level data, Manion was very competitive on the Eastside and cruised in Seattle:
Ferrell dominated in South King County and in rural King County, but ultimately could not make this countywide race competitive.
King County Charter Amendment 1
What our polling found: We first researched support for King County Charter Amendment 1 (the first-ever NPI conceived ballot measure to appear before voters!) in the summer. Initially, 55% of respondents favored the measure, and 16% were opposed, with 28% not sure. After hearing a balanced set of arguments for and against, support rose to 68% and opposition to 27%, with only 5% not sure. Our autumn survey likewise found King County Charter Amendment 1 ahead, with 50% support, 21% opposition, and 16% not sure. Support among voters who had already cast ballots in the election was higher, at 58%.
What happened in the election: King County Charter Amendment 1 is passing overwhelmingly, with 69.46% in favor. More than half a million King County voters are saying yes to our proposal to make future elections for King County offices more inclusive. The amendment will soon go into effect. Implementation (the switch to even years!) will be complete as of the 2028 presidential election.
Analysis: We have long contended that even-year elections are popular, and the results of King County Charter Amendment 1 prove it. Aside from Councilmember Reagan Dunn and right wing talk show Jason Rantz, who made a few critical comments at a few different junctures, we campaigned with no opposition at all. No one wrote a statement opposing our proposal in the voter’s pamphlet statement and no one organized a committee to defeat Charter Amendment 1.
The high support we found in our final ballot title test in the summer showed that a fully informed representative sample of likely voters was extremely enthusiastic about even-year elections. We saw that same enthusiasm in the actual vote.
A 69% yes vote is more than a landslide, it’s a victory of enormous proportions. More than two-thirds of voters in one of the nation’s most populous counties have delivered an unambiguous message: yes, electing local positions in years when turnout is higher and more diverse is something that we want!
King County Proposition 1
What our polling found: King County Proposition 1, the conservation futures levy, got off to a good start back in the summer, with 64% supportive, 25% opposed, and 11% not sure. In the autumn, support remained robust, with 57% in favor in the aggregate, 27% opposed, and 7% not sure.
What happened in the election: Voters are passing King County Proposition 1. It’s receiving a similar percentage to Charter Amendment 1: 69.94%. That’s really impressive. Even at a time of rising inflation, King County voters showed they value conservation and want to protect our lands for future generations to enjoy!
Analysis: Levies have historically had a good track record of passage in King County, which uses them to ensure its local public services are not choked by schemes such as Tim Eyman’s Initiative 747, which artificially restricts property taxes. The conservation futures levy was the beneficiary of an electorate with the vision and good sense to understand that our public and community-managed lands are one of our greatest assets as a county. Protecting and adding green spaces strengthens our quality of life and benefits everyone.
As in past cycles, this year’s election returns have validated our research… just like in 2018 when our polling found Democratic Senator Maria Cantwell well ahead of Republican challenger Susan Hutchison, or in 2020 when our polling correctly foreshadowed the outcome of every statewide candidate election, or in 2021 when we nailed the dynamics of every citywide contest in Seattle.
The reason this keeps happening is simple: we’re totally committed to the scientific method, whereas Republican firms like Trafalgar or Moore are not.
Subjective organizations are entirely capable of conducting objective research, but it requires an abiding commitment to asking neutral questions of representative samples. Alex Hays and other Republicans are free to put their faith in those firms or in aggregators like RealClearPolitics rather than our research if they want, but if they do, they run the risk of being misinformed about what’s actually going on.
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