Elections

A plurality of Washington voters are not sure who they want to vote for in the contest for Attorney General, NPI poll finds

Fil­ing Week has come and gone with­out bring­ing any increase in the num­ber of can­di­dates run­ning to be Wash­ing­ton State’s next Attor­ney Gen­er­al, but even so, the race remains wide open, at least on the Demo­c­ra­t­ic side. That’s the take­away from our lat­est sur­vey of like­ly vot­ers, which field­ed last week and found a plu­ral­i­ty of respon­dents not sure about their choic­es in the con­test for the state’s top law enforce­ment job.

Asked who they’d sup­port for Attor­ney Gen­er­al if the elec­tion were being held today, 45% said they were not sure. 36% said they would vote for Repub­li­can Pete Ser­ra­no, the only Repub­li­can who filed. 10% said they would vote for Demo­c­rat Man­ka Dhin­gra, a state sen­a­tor from the 45th Leg­isla­tive Dis­trict and a North­west Pro­gres­sive Foun­da­tion board­mem­ber. 9% said they would vote for Demo­c­rat Nick Brown, a for­mer U.S. Attor­ney for West­ern Wash­ing­ton who is now a lit­i­ga­tion part­ner at Paci­fi­ca Law Group.

This isn’t the first time we’ve found Brown and Dhin­gra tied: our Novem­ber sur­vey had them right next to each oth­er as well, with Dhin­gra at 14% and Brown at 13%. Ser­ra­no was­n’t a declared can­di­date then, so that poll asked about a hypo­thet­i­cal Repub­li­can can­di­date, Paul Graves, who received 38%. 34% said they were not sure.

But it’s a dif­fer­ent dynam­ic than what we saw in our Feb­ru­ary sur­vey. In that poll, Brown jumped out ahead of Dhin­gra, open­ing up a sev­en-point advan­tage. That lead is com­plete­ly gone, and what’s more, the num­ber of vot­ers who say they’re unde­cid­ed has increased and is high­er than what we saw either in Feb­ru­ary or November. 

It’s a good reminder that this is a low­er salience down­bal­lot race. And that Demo­c­ra­t­ic vot­ers have an impor­tant choice to make this sum­mer. Unlike Repub­li­can vot­ers, they have more than one can­di­date who aligns with their val­ues and desired pol­i­cy direc­tions. They can’t sim­ply go with the Demo­c­rat because there’s more than one Demo­c­rat. So, it’s not sur­pris­ing that 60% of Demo­c­ra­t­ic vot­ers told us they were not sure. 

Inde­pen­dent vot­ers are large­ly in the same boat: 50% of them aren’t sure, either. 

With few­er peo­ple hav­ing picked a can­di­date for Attor­ney Gen­er­al, the per­cent­ages that the Demo­c­ra­t­ic can­di­dates are receiv­ing are more sus­cep­ti­ble to noise in our polling. Recall that the Feb­ru­ary find­ing had Dhin­gra and Brown in the teens. Con­trast that with the gov­er­nor’s race, where there’s been a big gulf between Democ­rats Bob Fer­gu­son and Mark Mul­let for an entire year (June, Novem­ber, Feb­ru­ary, and now May).

It’s also use­ful to remem­ber that all polls are snap­shots in time. They don’t and can’t pre­dict the future. At best, they sug­gest what could be happening. 

No oth­er orga­ni­za­tion pub­licly polls down­bal­lot races such as Attor­ney Gen­er­al like NPI does — at least not this far before the elec­tion. We ask main­ly because we like hav­ing data to com­pare our home­stretch find­ings to. Hav­ing polled sea­son­al­ly over the course of an entire cycle gives us a bet­ter under­stand­ing of how a con­test unfolded. 

Pete Ser­ra­no has no Repub­li­can com­pe­ti­tion, so he’s got the Repub­li­can vote nailed down. He’ll get to the Novem­ber gen­er­al elec­tion. But the oth­er spot appears to be up for grabs. At this junc­ture, we can’t say that either Demo­c­rat is the frontrunner. 

Here’s the exact ques­tion that we asked and the answers we received:

QUESTION: If the elec­tion for Attor­ney Gen­er­al of Wash­ing­ton State were being held today, would you vote for Repub­li­can Pete Ser­ra­no, Demo­c­rat Nick Brown, or Demo­c­rat Man­ka Dhingra?

ANSWERS:

  • Repub­li­can Pete Ser­ra­no: 36% (+1% since February)
  • Demo­c­rat Man­ka Dhin­gra: 10% (-2% since February)
  • Demo­c­rat Nick Brown: 9% (-10% since February)
  • Not sure: 45% (+11% since February)

Our sur­vey of 615 like­ly 2024 Wash­ing­ton State vot­ers was in the field from Wednes­day, May 15th until Thurs­day, May 16th, 2024.

The poll uti­lizes a blend­ed method­ol­o­gy, with auto­mat­ed phone calls to land­lines (45%) and online answers from respon­dents recruit­ed by text (55%).

It was con­duct­ed by Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Polling (PPP) for the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute and has a mar­gin of error of +/- 4.0% 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.

These sur­vey results aren’t the only avail­able evi­dence that this is a close­ly con­test­ed race that’s giv­ing Demo­c­ra­t­ic vot­ers and pro­gres­sive con­stituen­cies lots to think about. A cou­ple days after this poll fin­ished field­ing, the Wash­ing­ton State Labor Coun­cil held its annu­al Com­mit­tee on Polit­i­cal Edu­ca­tion (COPE) Con­ven­tion in Seat­tle. At COPE 2024, del­e­gates decid­ed to endorse both Nick Brown and Man­ka Dhin­gra for this posi­tion. It’s the only statewide race for which they resolved to make a dual endorsement. 

On the fundrais­ing front, Brown’s cam­paign points out that he has raised more mon­ey than Dhin­gra: $1,004,038.43 as of when this post was writ­ten, com­pared to Dhin­gra’s $691,778.76. It should be not­ed that Dhin­gra could­n’t raise mon­ey dur­ing a three-month peri­od that began in Decem­ber, a month before the leg­isla­tive ses­sion, and end­ed after the House and Sen­ate adjourned Sine Die. She was legal­ly pro­hib­it­ed from doing so by the state’s elec­tions code. Brown does­n’t hold a state-lev­el office, so that pro­hi­bi­tion did not apply to him. He was able to raise mon­ey all win­ter long. 

And while receipts are impor­tant, they’re not the only fis­cal met­ric. How a can­di­date spends their mon­ey is of para­mount impor­tance, and also when they spend it. A cam­paign at an over­all finan­cial dis­ad­van­tage can get excel­lent results by spend­ing their resources more effi­cient­ly and effec­tive­ly than their competition. 

So far, Brown has report­ed $367,246.09 in expen­di­tures. Dhin­gra has report­ed $428,697.32 in expen­di­tures. Despite hav­ing raised less than Brown, she’s spent more.

Interested in diving into the crosstabs with us?

If you’re inter­est­ed in the crosstabs of our AG polling — past and present — we invite you to sub­scribe to The Chi­nook Bea­con, NPI’s newest pub­li­ca­tion and The Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate’s youngest sib­ling. The Bea­con, which just launched this week, is a newslet­ter avail­able exclu­sive­ly to pay­ing sub­scribers that pro­vides deep insights from our research as well as com­men­tary on elec­toral and polit­i­cal trends. Sub­scrip­tions cost $20/month or $240/year, and you can also become a Found­ing Mem­ber for $600/year.

We expect to pub­lish new edi­tions of The Bea­con every oth­er week through Novem­ber. After that, the pub­li­ca­tion sched­ule will like­ly go to twice a month.

Two months until voting begins and our next statewide poll fields

In the next few weeks, we’ll see how Brown and Dhin­gra invest the remain­ing funds they’ve raised. Their choic­es will be piv­otal in deter­min­ing the fates of their cam­paigns. Only one of them will get to move on to the gen­er­al elec­tion and face Pete Ser­ra­no and they both know it. The sprint to the August Top Two elec­tion is on. 

Andrew Villeneuve

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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