The results from a new survey of 500 likely Washington State voters out this morning shows Republican Rob McKenna might be positioned to pick off Democratic votes and eke out a victory, while ballot measures to legalize pot and gay marriage have majority support, but not by much. The Strategies 360 poll, which is posted here, has a margin of error of 4.4 percent:
Presidential: Obama 52% Romney 39%
Gubernatorial: Inslee 46% McKenna 46%
The crosstabs suggest, within the margin of error, that Rob McKenna has done a better job of shoring up his Republican base and winning independents than Inslee's done with his base, having lost 10 percent of Democrats to McKenna. "This race is going to be decided by Democrats," argues Kevin Ingham, Strategies 360's vice president for polling and research. If McKenna can hold the independent lead and Dems keep peeling McKenna's way, he says, "that's his key to victory." Eleven percent of independents voters and seven percent of Democrats are still undecided, the poll found.
When asking respondents about ballot measures, the pollsters read the exact language that appears on the ballot; then they followed up by asking about the concepts. Ingham explains, "Polling for a concept on almost any policy issue is going to be higher than for the ballot language because ballot language can be confusing." For example, Referendum 74's ballot question includes technicalities such as the "modified domestic-partnership law, and religious freedom," but Ingham points out that asking "whether you support same sex marriage is a simple yes or no question."
For the ballot measure results below, first are the responses to the complete ballot questions on charter schools, same-sex marriage, and marijuana legalization, followed responses to the conceptual questions:
Initiative 1240 (charter schools): Support 51% Oppose 34%
Support concept of public charter schools? Support 54% Oppose 31%
Do you think gay marriage should be legal? Legal 60% Illegal 33%
Initiative 502 (legalize marijuana) Support 54% Oppose 38%
Do you think marijuana should be legal? Legal 56% Illegal 36%
Support raising taxes for higher education? Support 59% Oppose 36%
"Gay marriage is in a good spot, and they have a lot of strong support," Ingham says. "I would rather be in the yes camp than the no camp right now, being at 55 percent."
But the pot initiative, which has 54 percent, is in a worse position because it relies on a lot of weak support. Twenty percent of respondents said they only "somewhat support" the measure. Says Ingham: "The question is whether can they hold that soft support all the way through the election. People are there in spirit but are not true believers in the issue."