Bob Ferguson versus Dave Reichert
Bob Ferguson (left) and Dave Reichert (right), the Democratic and Republican frontrunners in the 2024 Washington State gubernatorial contest (Courtesy of the Ferguson campaign and the U.S. House of Representatives)

Long­time Wash­ing­ton State poll­ster Stu­art Elway released a sec­ond round of elec­toral-relat­ed find­ings from his Decem­ber 2023 sur­vey of the Wash­ing­ton State elec­torate today — find­ings which cor­re­late NPI’s pre­vi­ous research sug­gest­ing that the 2024 Wash­ing­ton State guber­na­to­r­i­al race is competitive.

In part­ner­ship with Cross­cut, Elway sur­veyed 403 reg­is­tered vot­ers in Wash­ing­ton from Decem­ber 26th-28th, 2023. 116 took the sur­vey via land­line with live inter­view­ers, 149 took the sur­vey via mobile tele­phone with live inter­view­ers, and 138 took the sur­vey online using a link texted to them. 43% of the respon­dents are clas­si­fied as Democ­rats, 32% as inde­pen­dents, and 25% as Republicans.

Asked about this year’s guber­na­to­r­i­al race, a total of 37% of the respon­dents said they either intend­ed to vote for Demo­c­ra­t­ic fron­trun­ner Bob Fer­gu­son, or could vote for him, while a total of 31% said they either intend­ed to vote for Repub­li­can fron­trun­ner Dave Reichert, or could vote for him. Small­er num­bers of respon­dents said they intend­ed to vote or could vote for Demo­c­rat Mark Mul­let and Repub­li­can Semi Bird — Fer­gu­son and Reichert’s main com­pe­ti­tion for the position.

Sur­vey tak­ers were not asked a tra­di­tion­al horse race ques­tion (i.e. if the elec­tion were being held today, who would you vote for?) because Elway felt with the elec­tion being so far away, an uncon­ven­tion­al approach was warranted.

Elway’s guber­na­to­r­i­al ques­tion went like this:

QUESTION: There are cur­rent­ly four can­di­dates who have announced their inten­tion to run for Gov­er­nor. The elec­tion is almost a year away, but for each can­di­date, indi­cate – as things stand today – whether you: 1) Intend to vote for him; 2) Could vote for him; or 3) Will not vote for him for Gov­er­nor. If you are not famil­iar with the can­di­date, just indi­cate that.

These were the answers, as graphed by Crosscut:

Elway also asked respon­dents which par­ty’s can­di­dates they were inclined to sup­port in leg­isla­tive elec­tions. As with the guber­na­to­r­i­al con­test, a ques­tion with more than three answer choic­es was pre­sent­ed to respondents:

QUESTION: There will also be elec­tions for State Leg­is­la­ture. You will be asked to vote for two state rep­re­sen­ta­tives and per­haps a state sen­a­tor, depend­ing on your dis­trict. As things stand today, in the races for the state leg­is­la­ture in your Dis­trict, are you like­ly to vote for:


  • All Democ­rats: 24%
  • Most­ly Democ­rats: 26%
  • Most­ly Repub­li­cans: 17%
  • All Repub­li­cans: 17%
  • Don’t Know Yet: 16%

In total, 50% said they were inclined to vote for all Democ­rats, or most­ly Democ­rats, and 34% said all Repub­li­cans or most­ly Republicans.

There was also a ques­tion about who should con­trol state government:

QUESTION: Democ­rats have held the governor’s office since 1984, have had the major­i­ty in both hous­es of the state leg­is­la­ture since 2018 and now hold all eight of the statewide elect­ed offices. Which of these elec­tion out­comes comes clos­est to your opin­ion about the com­ing election:


  • It is impor­tant that Democ­rats keep con­trol state gov­ern­ment: 22%
  • It would be bet­ter if Democ­rats keep con­trol of state gov­ern­ment: 17%
  • It would be best if state gov­ern­ment con­trol was divid­ed between Repub­li­cans and Democ­rats: 25%
  • It would be bet­ter if Repub­li­cans took con­trol of state gov­ern­ment: 10%
  • It is impor­tant that Repub­li­cans take con­trol of state gov­ern­ment: 18%
  • No opin­ion: 7%

A total of 39% expressed a pref­er­ence for con­tin­ued Demo­c­ra­t­ic con­trol. 28% expressed a pref­er­ence for con­trol to shift to Republicans.

25% would like divid­ed gov­ern­ment, mean­ing a Leg­is­la­ture in which one par­ty con­trols one cham­ber and anoth­er par­ty the oth­er, or a gov­er­nor from a dif­fer­ent par­ty than one or both cham­bers of the Leg­is­la­ture. 7% had no opinion.

These leg­isla­tive find­ings sug­gest an edge for Democ­rats, and are con­sis­tent with what we saw in our gener­ic bal­lot polling last cycle and the actu­al elec­tion results, which yield­ed strong and slight­ly expand­ed Demo­c­ra­t­ic majori­ties in what many pun­dits had claimed was going to be a “red wave” year.

As a ques­tion­naire design­er myself, I think the elec­toral ques­tions above are unnec­es­sar­i­ly com­plex. I under­stand Elway’s desire to cap­ture the nuances of pub­lic opin­ion, but ask­ing fol­low-up ques­tions could have served that purpose.

I’m espe­cial­ly per­plexed by the answer choic­es in the third ques­tion (it is impor­tant ver­sus it would be bet­ter if a par­tic­u­lar polit­i­cal par­ty con­trolled state gov­ern­ment). That’s not a scale that makes sense to me. Why not just ask respon­dents who they want to see in con­trol of the Leg­is­la­ture: Democ­rats or Repub­li­cans? (This, inci­den­tal­ly, is what NPI does in our statewide polls).

In Novem­ber, NPI found Dave Reichert and Bob Fer­gu­son tied in a four-way race and near­ly tied in a hypo­thet­i­cal head-to-head, with Reichert hold­ing a slight, two-point lead over Fer­gu­son. This find­ing got a lot of atten­tion. It was the most-read Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate post of 2023, and has been men­tioned in a lot of media cov­er­age since then, includ­ing a Politi­co arti­cle last month.

Elway’s data is anoth­er bit of evi­dence indi­cat­ing that it’s a close race, at least as things stand now. Reichert has been run­ning a fair­ly low-pro­file cam­paign thus far, coast­ing along on his name recog­ni­tion, while Fer­gu­son has been focused on rais­ing mon­ey, scoop­ing up endorse­ments, and lay­ing groundwork.

Lat­er this year, the can­di­dates and their allies will begin spend­ing a lot of mon­ey to com­mu­ni­cate with vot­ers. We will see to what extent the dynam­ics change as vot­ers hear more from and about the guber­na­to­r­i­al candidates.

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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