Politics Pro-Light Rail Enviros May Have Swung Prop. 1 Election
posted by November 8 at 15:27 PMon
The most interesting conclusion from the Sierra Club’s exit polling of 5,000 voters in King, Pierce, and Snohomish Counties, released today, is that pro-transit environmental voters who opposed Prop. 1 may have been decisive in its defeat on Tuesday.
Stay with me: Among people who voted “no,” 20 percent (31 percent in Seattle) said they were most concerned by environmental impacts like global warming. (The largest group—45 percent—voted against it mainly because they didn’t want higher taxes, and another 19 percent were opposed to specific projects).
Among “no” voters who would have supported Sound Transit alone, 39 percent voted no because of the environmental impacts of the roads in the package. Crunching the numbers, that group amounts to six percent of all voters. “What was unusual and what was unique about this election was the decisive role of a small group of voters,” pollster Tom Riehle said in a conference call this morning. “In the absence of their concern about global warming, this would have been a much closer election than it was.” Prop. 1 was going down, as of the latest count, 56 to 44 percent—so if those pro-transit defectors had voted yes, along with a few other “no” voters from the anti-tax and specific projects groups, the election would have gone the other way.
A few more interesting findings from the exit polling:
Among voters who voted “yes,” more than half—54 percent—did so because of both the roads and transit components of the package. Thirty-five percent voted “yes” because of transit alone, and just 11 percent voted “yes” because of roads alone.
Looking deeper into the “no” numbers, a plurality of those who didn’t want higher taxes—35 percent—said they were most concerned by the fact that some of the taxes (specifically, for Sound Transit) would last 50 years. That plurality is somewhat deceiving, though—combining people who said they were most concerned about the sales tax increase (21 percent) and those who said they cared most about “the fact [that] the taxes hurt the poor more than the wealthy” (14 percent), which are both anti-sales tax sentiments, yields a total of 35 percent—the same as the number who said the taxes lasted too long.
Even more interesting: A strong plurality (47 percent) of people who were opposed to specific projects cited extension of light rail to Tacoma as their number-one concern. The other light rail extension (to Microsoft) didn’t make the list. That concern was most pronounced the furthest away from the extension (in Snohomish County) and least pronounced in Pierce County, where the extension would be.
The numbers also reveal that the roads part of the package probably wouldn’t have passed on its own: Just 45 percent of all voters said they would have voted for it, and 39 percent said they would have voted against it, with 16 percent undecided. What is more clear is that light rail alone would have passed—something the state legislature was fully aware of when it yoked the two proposals together in 2006. More than half (52 percent, and 64 percent in Seattle) said they would have voted for transit alone, 36 percent were opposed, and 12 percent were undecided.
The poll also refuted the conventional wisdom that people won’t vote for tolls. Fifty-four percent believed major transportation projects should be funded through user fees like tolls, and just 25 percent supported the kind of general tax increases that the failed package would have put in place. Fully 70 percent supported electronic tolling on the I-90 and 520 bridges.