Visualization of NPI's June 2023 Initiative 2078 poll finding
Visualization of NPI's June 2023 Initiative 2078 poll finding (NPI graphic)

A long­shot right wing ini­tia­tive that seeks to sab­o­tage Wash­ing­ton’s gun safe­ty laws is opposed by a plu­ral­i­ty of like­ly 2024 Wash­ing­ton State vot­ers despite hav­ing received a favor­able bal­lot title and looks like a bad bet for the gun lob­by, the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute’s most recent statewide poll has found.

46% of 773 respon­dents inter­viewed last week by Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Polling for the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute said they would “prob­a­bly” or “def­i­nite­ly” vote no on Lar­ry Jensen’s Ini­tia­tive 2078, which Jensen is try­ing to qual­i­fy to the 2024 Wash­ing­ton State Leg­is­la­ture with the back­ing of Tim Eyman and Glen Morgan.

41% said they would “prob­a­bly” or “def­i­nite­ly” vote yes. 13% were not sure.

Visualization of NPI's June 2023 Initiative 2078 poll finding
Visu­al­iza­tion of NPI’s June 2023 Ini­tia­tive 2078 poll find­ing (NPI graphic)

Ini­tia­tive 2078, filed in April, is a grass­roots effort to cre­ate a giant loop­hole in the gun safe­ty laws passed by the peo­ple and the Leg­is­la­ture for the last ten years. As sum­ma­rized by the Attor­ney Gen­er­al’s office, it would “pro­hib­it the gov­ern­ment from restrict­ing the pur­chase or pos­ses­sion of guns or oth­er arms for self-defense by law-abid­ing cit­i­zens (as defined) unless a uni­form fed­er­al stan­dard is required, and would pro­hib­it gov­ern­ment reg­istries of such law-abid­ing cit­i­zens. It would pro­hib­it con­fis­ca­tion of arms from law-abid­ing cit­i­zens with­out due process.”

Our I‑2078 ques­tion took the form of a bal­lot title test, in which respon­dents were asked to react to the bal­lot title and noth­ing else. No argu­ments from pro­po­nents or oppo­nents and no “mes­sag­ing” of any kind — just the words the Attor­ney Gen­er­al’s office came up with for the mea­sure’s con­cise descrip­tion, which is what vot­ers would see on their bal­lots if the mea­sure were to qualify.

You’ll see the con­cise descrip­tion in a moment. It dif­fers from the sum­ma­ry in the pre­ced­ing para­graph, though it is sim­i­lar and has sev­er­al of the same words.

Well-run cam­paigns test their bal­lot titles in advance of begin­ning any sig­na­ture gath­er­ing, because a con­cise descrip­tion that does­n’t poll well sig­ni­fies the ini­tia­tive would most like­ly fail if it were to be con­sid­ered by the elec­torate. A com­pelling bal­lot title starts in the six­ties; many strate­gists con­sid­er it exceed­ing­ly impor­tant that there be a buffer against gains made by a poten­tial no campaign.

I‑2078 is an exam­ple of an ini­tia­tive that amaz­ing­ly does­n’t even start above the mid-for­ties. Despite all of the mum­bo-jum­bo in the title about “law abid­ing cit­i­zens,” the sup­port is weak, hard­ly exceed­ing the per­cent­age of peo­ple who say they’re will­ing to vote for ultra MAGA Repub­li­can Ron DeSan­tis next Novem­ber.

These are absolute­ly dread­ful num­bers for a pro­posed statewide ini­tia­tive at its incep­tion. A mea­sure that starts out so far behind like this is con­sid­ered by most strate­gists on both sides of the ide­o­log­i­cal fence to have no chance of passage.

See for your­self — here’s the exact text of our ques­tion and the responses:

QUESTION: An ini­tia­tive has recent­ly been filed that con­cerns guns and oth­er arms. The offi­cial descrip­tion is as fol­lows: This mea­sure would pro­hib­it gov­ern­ment restric­tions on pur­chase or pos­ses­sion of arms for self-defense by law-abid­ing cit­i­zens absent fed­er­al stan­dards, con­fis­ca­tions from law-abid­ing cit­i­zens with­out due process, and gov­ern­ment reg­istries of such cit­i­zens. If this mea­sure were to appear on the bal­lot, would you vote def­i­nite­ly vote yes, prob­a­bly vote yes, prob­a­bly vote no, or def­i­nite­ly vote no?


  • Would vote yes: 41% 
    • Would def­i­nite­ly vote yes: 28%
    • Would prob­a­bly vote yes: 13%
  • Would vote no: 46% 
    • Would prob­a­bly vote no: 11%
    • Would def­i­nite­ly vote no: 35%
  • Not sure: 13%

Our sur­vey of 773 like­ly 2024 Wash­ing­ton State vot­ers was in the field from Wednes­day, June 7th through Thurs­day, June 8th, 2023.

The poll uti­lizes a blend­ed method­ol­o­gy, with auto­mat­ed phone calls to land­lines (41%) and online answers from cell phone only respon­dents (59%).

It was con­duct­ed by Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Polling (PPP) for the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute, and has a mar­gin of error of +/- 3.5% at the 95% con­fi­dence interval.

NPI and PPP have worked togeth­er for a decade and have a track record of excel­lence, as detailed in this 2022 elec­toral polling recap and this 2020 one.

If you’re a right winger and think this polling isn’t cred­i­ble because it was com­mis­sioned by a pro­gres­sive orga­ni­za­tion, think again.

Resist the temp­ta­tion to offer a knee jerk reac­tion. Read the ques­tion that was asked, care­ful­ly. Notice that it’s just the bal­lot title. Noth­ing more and noth­ing less. There were no ques­tions asked about guns before this ques­tion in an effort to influ­ence the respons­es, and our poll­ster worked hard, as they always do, to achieve a rep­re­sen­ta­tive sam­ple of the Wash­ing­ton State electorate.

This is what pub­lic opin­ion research done accord­ing to the sci­en­tif­ic method looks like. I often write in this space that sub­jec­tive orga­ni­za­tions are per­fect­ly capa­ble of con­duct­ing objec­tive research, and at NPI, we do just that.

Our team is gen­uine­ly curi­ous how peo­ple feel about the issues of our time. That’s why we avoid ask­ing loaded ques­tions in our sur­veys. We know that you can’t find out what peo­ple think if you tell them what to think first.

In the last decade, Wash­ing­ton has become a state with a very strong gun safe­ty cul­ture, which helps explain why I‑2078 polls so bad­ly despite hav­ing a bal­lot title that a gun enthu­si­ast might think would be appeal­ing to a mass audience.

Sup­port for poli­cies like uni­ver­sal back­ground checks, extreme risk pro­tec­tion orders, and bans on assault weapons and high capac­i­ty mag­a­zines are rock sol­id in Wash­ing­ton, and have been increas­ing as time goes on. This sup­port spans the ide­o­log­i­cal spec­trum — it’s not just Demo­c­ra­t­ic vot­ers who want to live in com­mu­ni­ties that are free from the scourge of gun violence.

Nation­al­ly, we’re see­ing sim­i­lar trends in pub­lic opin­ion, as dis­cussed in a very good piece that ran a few days ago in Politi­co by Lau­ren Leader titled When It Comes to Guns, Repub­li­can Women Don’t Always Agree with Repub­li­can Men.

Here’s an excerpt:

We found that Repub­li­can women not only sup­port cer­tain kinds of gun restric­tions more than Repub­li­can men do, they also most­ly agree with Demo­c­ra­t­ic and inde­pen­dent women on what those solu­tions should be. Specif­i­cal­ly, there is a whop­ping 20-point gap between Repub­li­can men (41 per­cent) and women (61 per­cent) on the ques­tion of restrict­ing the abil­i­ty to pur­chase cer­tain types of firearms.

The divide was notable in a num­ber of oth­er areas as well. On the ques­tion of restrict­ing the abil­i­ty of some­one under age 21 from hav­ing a gun, 70 per­cent of Repub­li­can women agreed, com­pared to just 63 per­cent of Repub­li­can men. On the ques­tion of imple­ment­ing laws that would make it eas­i­er for law enforce­ment to take firearms away from indi­vid­u­als who might be a threat to them­selves or oth­ers, 72 per­cent of Repub­li­can women agreed, com­pared to just 62 per­cent of Repub­li­can men.

These dynam­ics were like­wise present in the respons­es to our I‑2078 question.

A quar­ter of Repub­li­can vot­ers expressed oppo­si­tion to I‑2078, with 22% say­ing they would def­i­nite­ly vote no and anoth­er 2% say­ing they would prob­a­bly vote no. That is a sig­nif­i­cant chunk of the Repub­li­can elec­torate! This mea­sure is geared first and fore­most towards right wing vot­ers, yet we can see that not all Repub­li­cans want to roll back the progress we’ve made in our state on gun safety.

What will most like­ly hap­pen with I‑2078 is that Jensen will get a bunch of Repub­li­can PCOs and Trump vot­ers to sign his peti­tions, but he’ll arrive at the Decem­ber 31st sig­na­ture dead­line well short of 425,000 sig­na­tures, which is what he’d need to qual­i­fy the mea­sure. It’s extreme­ly tough for an exclu­sive­ly vol­un­teer-run sig­na­ture dri­ve to get so many sig­na­tures. Paid peti­tion­ers are a neces­si­ty for a statewide ini­tia­tive, and to hire them, Jensen would need a lot of mon­ey. Giv­en how poor­ly the I‑2078 bal­lot title polls, it’s unlike­ly that any wealthy donor would want to waste their mon­ey help­ing fund a sig­na­ture drive.

Hope­ful­ly, at the end of this year, we’ll be able to raise a toast to I‑2078’s demise.

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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