Elections

Bob Ferguson widens lead over Dave Reichert in 2024 Washington gubernatorial race, NPI poll finds

Demo­c­ra­t­ic Attor­ney Gen­er­al Bob Fer­gu­son has slight­ly widened his lead over for­mer Repub­li­can Dave Reichert in Wash­ing­ton’s fierce­ly con­test­ed 2024 guber­na­to­r­i­al race, a sur­vey con­duct­ed this week for the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute has found. 

Asked on May 15th and 16th who they would vote for in a two-way race if the guber­na­to­r­i­al elec­tion were being held today, 48% of 615 like­ly 2024 Wash­ing­ton State vot­ers inter­viewed by Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Polling for NPI said they’d back Fer­gu­son, the Demo­c­ra­t­ic fron­trun­ner, while 42% said they would vote for Reichert, the Repub­li­can frontrunner. 

Anoth­er 10% were not sure.

This is the sec­ond con­sec­u­tive statewide sur­vey we’ve com­mis­sioned that’s found Fer­gu­son with a lead. After nar­row­ly trail­ing Reichert back in Novem­ber of last year, Fer­gu­son jumped out ahead of the for­mer Repub­li­can con­gress­man in Feb­ru­ary, open­ing up a four-point advan­tage. Now his lead has increased to six points. Mean­while, Reichert is hold­ing steady, gar­ner­ing the same per­cent­age he did back in the winter.

It has been twelve years since Wash­ing­ton last had an open guber­na­to­r­i­al race. Then, as now, the can­di­dates were a for­mer Unit­ed States Rep­re­sen­ta­tive and an incum­bent Attor­ney Gen­er­al who’d run and won statewide mul­ti­ple times. The for­mer Unit­ed States Rep­re­sen­ta­tive was Demo­c­rat Jay Inslee, who resigned from Con­gress to focus on cam­paign­ing full time, and the Attor­ney Gen­er­al was Repub­li­can Rob McKenna. 

McKen­na led in ear­ly polling and was con­sid­ered the fron­trun­ner up until the begin­ning of sum­mer, when Inslee went up on the air­waves and began intro­duc­ing him­self (or, in some cas­es, rein­tro­duc­ing him­self) to vot­ers. A tele­vi­sion spot cre­at­ed by media strate­gist Frank Greer and GMMB swung the dynam­ics of the race in Inslee’s favor. He began lead­ing in many pub­lic polls and went on to defeat McKen­na, keep­ing the gov­er­nor’s man­sion in Demo­c­ra­t­ic hands. Inslee was reelect­ed in 2016 and 2020.

Polit­i­cal his­to­ry seemed to be rhyming last autumn when our sea­son­al statewide sur­vey found Reichert with a slim lead in a hypo­thet­i­cal head-to-head matchup. How­ev­er, Reichert’s advan­tage was short-lived. By Feb­ru­ary, Reichert had fall­en behind Fer­gu­son, with few­er Demo­c­ra­t­ic vot­ers express­ing a will­ing­ness to vote for him.

Our spring sur­vey sug­gests that Fer­gu­son is on a tra­jec­to­ry that could lead to a com­fort­able Demo­c­ra­t­ic vic­to­ry this autumn. Fer­gu­son might not win in a land­slide — elec­toral his­to­ry shows that Repub­li­cans are more com­pet­i­tive when there’s no Demo­c­ra­t­ic incum­bent run­ning — but he’s pulling away from Reichert even before going up on tele­vi­sion and oth­er media to intro­duce him­self and make his case. 

That’s a prob­lem for Reichert. 

Fer­gu­son’s cam­paign got plen­ty of pub­lic­i­ty right before our poll field­ed thanks to the incred­i­ble stu­pid­i­ty of a right wing Repub­li­can oper­a­tive named Glen Mor­gan, who decid­ed to inter­fere with Fer­gu­son’s can­di­da­cy by recruit­ing oth­er men named Robert Fer­gu­son to file for gov­er­nor. Those men both with­drew on Mon­day after learn­ing that Mor­gan had put them at risk of being charged with, and con­vict­ed of, a Class B felony.

Their exit put an end to Mor­gan’s scheme to split the vote for Fer­gu­son, but it did­n’t do much to win­now the field of can­di­dates. Twen­ty-six peo­ple are still in the race for gov­er­nor in addi­tion to Fer­gu­son and Reichert. Most of them haven’t raised any mon­ey or done much cam­paign­ing, and most Wash­ing­to­ni­ans prob­a­bly haven’t heard of them. 

How­ev­er, two of those twen­ty-six have been doing more cam­paign­ing and rais­ing more mon­ey than the oth­ers: ex-school board mem­ber Semi Bird, a Repub­li­can, and State Sen­a­tor Mark Mul­let, a Demo­c­rat. Bird and Mul­let met the cri­te­ria that we estab­lished for inclu­sion in our guber­na­to­r­i­al polling last year, and accord­ing­ly, in each of our sur­veys, we’ve includ­ed them in our Top Two guber­na­to­r­i­al ques­tion. The cri­te­ria are: 

  • Must be an offi­cial­ly declared can­di­date for the office who has filed a C1 with the Pub­lic Dis­clo­sure Com­mis­sion (PDC)
  • Must have declared an affil­i­a­tion with a major par­ty (the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty or the Repub­li­can Party)
  • Must have report­ed rais­ing at least $50,000 in ear­ly mon­ey for their cur­rent guber­na­to­r­i­al cam­paign or have pre­vi­ous­ly raised at least $250,000 in a pri­or cam­paign for any state-lev­el office, or both

Bird and Mul­let have each argued on many occa­sions that they have a path to the Novem­ber bal­lot. How­ev­er, our polling has con­sis­tent­ly indi­cat­ed that nei­ther of them is any­where close to their rivals. That was true at the end of spring last year, it was true last autumn, it was true this win­ter, and it’s true now:

Visu­al­iza­tion of the Top Two ques­tion from NPI’s May 2024 guber­na­to­r­i­al poll find­ing, which asked respon­dents about a field of four can­di­dates (North­west Pro­gres­sive Institute)
  • Mul­let is stuck at 4% — where he was in Feb­ru­ary — despite hav­ing spent a ton of mon­ey on tele­vi­sion adver­tis­ing dur­ing the past few weeks. Those spots haven’t moved the nee­dle for him so much as one iota.
  • Bird received 11%, 2% more than he received in Feb­ru­ary and 1% more than he received in Novem­ber and June of 2023. That’s the extent of his “con­ven­tion bounce” — he was endorsed by the Wash­ing­ton State Repub­li­can Par­ty in April. 
  • Reichert gained one point, going from 27% in Feb­ru­ary to 28%. Before that, he had slid four points between Novem­ber and Feb­ru­ary, while Fer­gu­son went the oth­er direc­tion, dis­solv­ing the 31% / 31% tie we saw in our autumn survey.
  • Fer­gu­son, mean­while, stayed at 35% in our Top Two ques­tion. He has either led or been tied with Reichert in our Top Two ques­tion for the entire­ty of the cycle, since we began ask­ing vot­ers who they’d sup­port for gov­er­nor in 2024. 

The sea­sons may have changed, but Mul­let and Bird’s prospects haven’t. They’re still as bad as they were before. Nei­ther has as much name famil­iar­i­ty as their rivals. And, in this sur­vey, we dis­cov­ered that nei­ther Mul­let nor Bird is viewed favor­ably by most Wash­ing­ton vot­ers who have heard of them. Take a look: 

Candidate favorability findings

QUESTION: Do you have a favor­able or unfa­vor­able opin­ion of Repub­li­can Semi Bird?

ANSWERS:

  • Favor­able: 20%
  • Unfa­vor­able: 31% 
  • Have not heard of Semi Bird: 38%
  • Not sure: 12%

QUESTION: Do you have a favor­able or unfa­vor­able opin­ion of Demo­c­rat Mark Mullet?

ANSWERS:

  • Favor­able: 16%
  • Unfa­vor­able: 26%
  • Have not heard of Mark Mul­let: 41%
  • Not sure: 17% 

This is the first time we’ve asked respon­dents in one of our sur­veys about their opin­ion of Bird and Mul­let. In Feb­ru­ary, we asked respon­dents about their opin­ions of Fer­gu­son and Reichert. We found that Fer­gu­son had a slight­ly pos­i­tive spread (39% favor­able, 35% unfa­vor­able) and Reichert had a slight­ly neg­a­tive one (26% favor­able, 32% unfa­vor­able). This time around, we found that both fron­trun­ners are about even, with approx­i­mate­ly as many respon­dents offer­ing a favor­able opin­ion as an unfa­vor­able one:

QUESTION: Do you have a favor­able or unfa­vor­able opin­ion of Repub­li­can Dave Reichert?

ANSWERS:

  • Favor­able: 30%
  • Unfa­vor­able: 29%
  • Have not heard of Dave Reichert: 23%
  • Not sure: 18%

QUESTION: Do you have a favor­able or unfa­vor­able opin­ion of Demo­c­rat Bob Ferguson?

ANSWERS:

  • Favor­able: 38%
  • Unfa­vor­able: 39%
  • Have not heard of Bob Fer­gu­son: 13%
  • Not sure: 10%

It’s pos­si­ble the dynam­ics could change before vot­ing in the August Top Two elec­tion con­cludes. But it does­n’t seem like­ly. Mul­let and Bird have each been run­ning for around a year and have failed to gain any mean­ing­ful ground on Fer­gu­son and Reichert. As men­tioned, a recent spate of tele­vi­sion ads has­n’t done any­thing for Mark Mul­let and Semi Bird has­n’t seen a sig­nif­i­cant boost since becom­ing the Wash­ing­ton State Repub­li­can Par­ty’s endorsed can­di­date. Both can­di­dates should take note that among vot­ers with an opin­ion, they are viewed more unfa­vor­ably than favorably.

Four-way toplines (August election)

Here are the four-way toplines again, and the exact ques­tion we asked:

QUESTION: If the elec­tion for Gov­er­nor of Wash­ing­ton State were being held today, and the can­di­dates were Demo­c­rat Bob Fer­gu­son, Repub­li­can Semi Bird, Demo­c­rat Mark Mul­let, and Repub­li­can Dave Reichert, who would you vote for?

Half the poll sam­ple saw the ques­tion with the order of can­di­dates as shown above and half the sam­ple saw the ques­tion with the order of can­di­dates shown below. The word­ing was the same, but the order was invert­ed to make the ques­tion as neu­tral as possible. 

If the elec­tion for Gov­er­nor of Wash­ing­ton State were being held today, and the can­di­dates were Repub­li­can Dave Reichert, Demo­c­rat Mark Mul­let, Repub­li­can Semi Bird, and Demo­c­rat Bob Fer­gu­son, who would you vote for?

ANSWERS:

  • Bob Fer­gu­son: 35%
  • Dave Reichert: 28%
  • Semi Bird: 11%
  • Mark Mul­let: 4%
  • Not sure: 22%

This ques­tion appeared after all of the favor­a­bil­i­ty ques­tions shown above.

Like our oth­er statewide sur­veys this cycle, this was a poll of like­ly Novem­ber gen­er­al elec­tion vot­ers, not August Top Two vot­ers. How­ev­er, Wash­ing­ton has a two-part gen­er­al elec­tion, with the first part being an elim­i­na­tion round that takes the place of the pri­ma­ry sys­tem that most oth­er states in the coun­try have, and the peo­ple who typ­i­cal­ly respond to sur­veys affirm­ing they’ll vote tend to be more fre­quent voters. 

To elab­o­rate a lit­tle more: 97% of respon­dents to this sur­vey said they were “cer­tain” to vote in Novem­ber and 3% said they “prob­a­bly” would — it’s a rea­son­able assump­tion that most of our poll tak­ers will also vote in August.

Two-way toplines (simulated November election)

We then asked respon­dents who they’d sup­port in a hypo­thet­i­cal gen­er­al elec­tion matchup between Fer­gu­son and Reichert. That is the matchup we believe the Top Two elec­tion results are most like­ly to yield in August. Here are the two-way toplines again, and the exact ques­tion that we asked the vot­ers who were interviewed: 

QUESTION: If the elec­tion for Gov­er­nor were being held today and the can­di­dates were just Demo­c­rat Bob Fer­gu­son and Repub­li­can Dave Reichert, who would you vote for?

Half the poll sam­ple saw the ques­tion with the order of can­di­dates as shown above and half the sam­ple saw the ques­tion with the order of can­di­dates shown below. The word­ing was the same, but the order was invert­ed to make the ques­tion as neu­tral as possible. 

If the elec­tion for Gov­er­nor were being held today and the can­di­dates were just Repub­li­can Dave Reichert and Demo­c­rat Bob Fer­gu­son, who would you vote for?

ANSWERS:

  • Bob Fer­gu­son: 48%
  • Dave Reichert: 42%
  • Not sure: 10%

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

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.

Interested in diving into the crosstabs with us?

If you’re inter­est­ed in the crosstabs of our guber­na­to­r­i­al 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. 

Stay tuned for another gubernatorial poll finding this summer

In July, we plan to go back into the field with our first-ever Top Two statewide poll. We’ve polled right before the Top Two before at the local lev­el, but not at the state lev­el. This year, we’ve cho­sen to add anoth­er sur­vey to our sea­son­al sched­ule to meet the demand for cred­i­ble, high-qual­i­ty data. This under­tak­ing requires that we expand our bud­get. In addi­tion to expand­ing our research, we’re also work­ing to cre­ate paid staff posi­tions at NPI to ensure that the essen­tial research and advo­ca­cy we do con­tin­ues. Rev­enue from The Chi­nook Bea­con will sup­port this capac­i­ty-build­ing work. Please become a sub­scriber! Note that The Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate will remain avail­able to read at no charge and with no pay­wall, just as it has been for over twen­ty years. 

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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