A newly released poll of likely Washington voters indicates that the race for governor is virtually tied with Democrat Jay Inslee slightly ahead.
The latest results of the Washington Poll include responses from 632 likely voters. Democrat Jay Inslee has a three-point lead over Republican Rob McKenna, which is within the poll’s margin of error.
UW political science professor Matt Barreto runs the Washington Poll. He said one cue to watch for on election night will be the support McKenna gets in King County. In past elections candidates have needed at least 40 percent of the vote there to win. Barreto said a majority of independent voters say they support McKenna, but that those people are less likely to vote overall. Their turnout will be another crucial question.
“They are less likely to be contacted by the parties," Barreto said. "But in this very important block here, McKenna does continue to have a very strong lead and that could be very, very important for him, if those independents turn out at high rates.”
In the race for attorney general, Bob Ferguson has a ten-point lead over his rival Reagan Dunn. But Barreto noted that a sizeable number of voters, 21 percent, said they were still undecided in a race that has seen escalating numbers of attack ads.
On state ballot measures, the poll suggests that support is building for marijuana legalization and charter schools. The Washington Poll surveyed voters earlier in October, and both measures have gained several points since then, taking them each well over 50 percent. Barreto said advertising from supporters of the two initiatives has dominated the airwaves, while there have been almost no negative ads.
“When you have a very lopsided advertising campaign like you do on 1240 and 502, there’s almost been no public debate on those issues," Barreto said. "And I think that to some extent is a disservice to voters on both of those initiatives.”
The poll finds that support has also remained steady for Referendum 74 to legalize same-sex marriage. But Barreto said issues of values and morality are hard to pin down in voter surveys. In 2009, the ballot measure to enhance domestic partnerships passed, but by a smaller margin than polls had predicted. Barreto said people who opposed the initiative were reluctant to admit that to pollsters. He said that same bias may also affect polling for Referendum 74. “We have gone through the data, looked very carefully at places where people may be giving us an inconsistent or socially desirable answer, not wanting to admit they’re against the initiative,” Barreto said. Taking that into account, he predicts the same-sex marriage referendum will pass with 52 percent of the vote.