Slog Music

Music, Nightlife,
and Drinks

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Yes, Seattle Has Conservatives

Posted by on Wed, Jan 29, 2014 at 8:56 AM

I know this defies the weathered arguments of Seattle's political old-guard, but Seattle is not through-and-through blue. Some of us are pretty conservative. And those conservative voters—gasp-o-rama!—vote for more conservative politicians.

Exhibit A: Crosscut's Benjamin Anderstone has an excellent, data-driven analysis piece (WITH REALLY PRETTY MAPS) that breaks down precinct results in Seattle elections since 2008. He examines several issues—partisan political races, votes on taxation, social justice ballot measures, and local politicians—and he confirms something sentient humans have been saying all along: Even though Seattle may lack radically conservative politicians (compared to trolls like Sarah Palin), the voters in the outer ring of the city consistently back conservative laws and conservative politicians:

I have argued before that candidate races in Seattle regularly come down to competition between two blocs of voters: the “liberal bloc,” which tends to be younger, lower-income, and reside in urbanized neighborhoods; and the “conservative bloc,” which skews older, wealthier, and is concentrated in highly residential areas, often ones with nice views and pricy real estate.

Unsurprisingly, I received push-back on this from people who asserted that Richard Conlin, Ed Murray, and other “conservative bloc” candidates are hardly personally conservative. True enough!

However, let the map here put to rest any doubt that “conservative bloc” voters are not, by Seattle terms, conservative. In fact, support for “conservative bloc” candidates was the single strongest statistical predictor for a precinct’s partisanship. If you’d like to estimate a Seattleite’s willingness to vote for a Republican, don’t ask them how they feel about same-sex marriage or public financing. Ask them if they voted for Joe Mallahan. (Mike McGinn's opponent in the 2009 Seattle mayor's race.)

Before everyone poops their keyboard: Nobody is saying that Richard Conlin or Ed Murray or Joe Mallahan came from same ideological litter as Senator Tom Coburn. Nor is anyone saying that Republican voters are a massive part of the electorate. But it is safe to say this: Those candidates rely on votes from more conservative precincts—and those candidates must appeal to those conservative voters to win. I called Anderstone to ask more about his findings. It turns out, he said, that there's a stronger correlation between voters who backed former council member Conlin this past election and Republican voters than even Mallahan (who had a .74 correlation). There was a .79 correlation between precincts approving Conlin and precincts voting GOP, said Anderstone. "Conlin relied disproportionately on voters who are Republican and are willing to vote Republican," he said. "The straight-ticket Democratic voters almost certainly voted very heavily for Kshama Sawant." (A socialist, Sawant won the city council race.) He said conservative histories were also "extremely predictive" of siding with Mayor Ed Murray—with a .70 correlation. "There is a big correlation between areas willing to vote for conservative candidates and willing to vote for Murray."

Again, because I can hear their consultants howling that these guys aren't Republican—duh—I'd argue that Anderstone's work is useful in dispelling a common election-time myth, particularly from more moderate voters, that Seattle is homogeneously liberal. It's just not homogenous. There are clearly two teams in Seattle politics: Call them what you will, the wealthier, older moderates/conservatives and the working-class, younger liberals.

And more conservative politicians in any given race need—and seek—backing from Seattle's conservative voters to cobble together a majority (which includes more conservative precincts and more liberal precincts). For example, Murray's campaign repeatedly stoked fear about a citywide crime epidemic (which is not only a conservative talking point but was largely untrue), about the danger associated bicycle lanes, and about the divisiveness of advocating for light rail. He used those conservative dog whistles to help him get elected. As this Seattle Times precinct analysis shows, the Murray voters were predominantly in wealthy outer-ring neighborhoods with water views, which Anderstone's analyses show are the same neighborhoods that back Republicans and more conservative laws. Likewise, the same Seattle Times maps show Conlin's trend was even stronger. Inversely, Seattle's central, working-class neighborhoods—which tend to vote for the more progressive candidates and issues—went with McGinn and Sawant.

Seattle can squabble over terminology to describe politicos on the right hand side of the local spectrum—conservatish?—but there's no doubt they represent more conservative agendas than their lefty counterparts. Take the city council: The conservatish bloc has backed bills that target panhandlers with fines, build freeways, nix homeless shelters, scuttle legislation to make homeless encampments safer, and undertake other conservative goals. Their lefty counterparts (and lefty voters) oppose those conservative agendas, perhaps because they don't rely on conservative voters as a key component of their their base.


Comments (11) RSS

Oldest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
Joe Szilagyi 1
Tin foil hat: many people oppose density as it would logically lead to a further empowerment of working class and/or more liberal voters, which would reduce the power of the wealthy outer ring "establishment voters".
Posted by Joe Szilagyi on January 29, 2014 at 9:03 AM · Report this
Ed Murray, Mayor of Broadmoor.
Posted by DOUG. on January 29, 2014 at 9:03 AM · Report this
"There are clearly two teams in Seattle politics: Call them what you will, the wealthier, older moderates/conservatives and the working-class, younger liberals."

I'd push back a little on this. Note that in Anderstone's analysis, poor and working-class SE Seattle is one of the most anti-tax areas of the city. It isn't just elderly and white Magnolia and Broadmoor who don't vote The Stranger's ticket - working class Rainier Valley residents also join the Republicans on levies and tax increases.
Posted by big l on January 29, 2014 at 9:11 AM · Report this
Wow. It's almost like you don't believe every politician running for office doesn't seize the moments that highlight something to be a perceived deficiency in the incumbent (be that some crazy ex con boarding a metro bus at the busiest downtown bus stops and shooting the driver or the small business owners on 65th who are concerned about a realignment for bike lanes taking away their parking). Murray didn't exactly jump up and down saying McGinn is a fat liar about being able to roll out municipal internet (or put a light rail package before voters) but you take your opportunities where offered (like McGinn did when he passed the primary by opposing the DBT before switching to the more popular view of accepting it in time for the general election).

Posted by ChefJoe on January 29, 2014 at 9:12 AM · Report this
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn 5
Utter banality.

Winning politicians draw support from a broad coalition, some more extreme than themselves, others more centrist.

The whole story is based on the straw man that "there are NO conservatives in Seattle". Who said such a thing? Care to name them?

Nobody said that? Exactly. Silly straw man used to prove a banality.
Posted by Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn on January 29, 2014 at 9:31 AM · Report this
Dominic Holden 6
Here's one recent article about Seattle's political homogeneity:

By Seattle he means a one-party town, a place where orthodox views and political correctness prevail, where the legislative districts litmus-test candidates in a game-show atmosphere of political "Survivor" as each contestant tries to prove they're more progressive than their rivals.

Electoral dissent in Seattle doesn't come from the right much any more, it comes from the left. The so-called liberal monoculture does have many shades of blue and extends far enough leftward to occasionally include socialist candidates.

Posted by Dominic Holden on January 29, 2014 at 9:42 AM · Report this
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn 7

Is that in reply to me? Do you think that quote is saying there are no conservatives in Seattle? Even simpleminded Knute Berger wouldn't actually say that.

Prior to Sawant, would anyone have said there are no socialists in Seattle? Or only that there are so few that they don't win office and so instead vote for the next best thing? Just like conservatives here vote for the next best thing.

Next shall we shock the world by finding a liberal voter in Provo?
Posted by Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn on January 29, 2014 at 10:26 AM · Report this
raku 8
The spectrum in Seattle is essentially progressive-liberal-libertarian as left-center-right. With a small number of anarchists (complex ideology) and Republicans (fascists) as their own thing.

Liberalism is a thing, with a certain meaning, which is essentially center-left in America (or center-right if you're in Europe or South America). I'm certainly not a liberal. On the other hand, there's "progressive", which means left (or center-left in Europe/SA), also known as "social democratic", "green", or "socialist" in the Kshama Sawant style.

Progressives include Kshama Sawant and maaaaaaybe Mike McGinn, Mike O'Brien, and Nick Licata on certain white-guy issues. Liberals include the rest of the city council and Ed Murray.

I don't think we're at risk of any "Republicans" on the city council, but we're certainly at risk of libertarians or more right-leaning liberals.
Posted by raku on January 29, 2014 at 12:52 PM · Report this
SchmuckyTheCat 9
I voted for both Mallahan and Sawant, I guess that makes me an outlier for this guy.

The Lesser Seattle crowd is still very much alive. They oppose expanded liquor sales and marijuana. they are the biggest NIMBYs in the neighborhoods. Opposition to density now, and backed CAP in the 80s. Seattle was founded by and still has a streak of morally zealous Methodism in it. These issues don't necessarily fit on the liberal/conservative spectrum but they are positions that our politicians will listen to, and they have money.
Posted by SchmuckyTheCat on January 29, 2014 at 3:23 PM · Report this
collectivism_sucks 10
@8 And if Seattle did have a libertarian in the council, so what? If we can have a socialist, we should be able to also have a libertarian giving SOME voice to all the non-left wing authoritarians in this town.

I love how the same liberals who go on and on about diversity of race, sexuality and income (that I support, btw) are the same people who FLIP OUT at the notion that Seattle has some ideological diversity. So there are conservatives in Seattle. Big deal. That's also diversity. It sucks to have a city where conservatives and libertarians can't even be themselves without having some socialist moron scream at them and call them names. And yes, I say the same thing for "redneck" parts of the country that are that way for progressives.
Posted by collectivism_sucks on January 29, 2014 at 10:32 PM · Report this
chaseacross 11
I think of the divide as being less liberal and conservative and more "Little Seattle" vs. "Greater Seattle." "Little Seattle" represents people who are capitalism's winners, knowledge economy folks and longtime residents who would never dream of voting for a GOP mouth-breather, but whose do-gooding ends at driving a Prius. They're the people who say "Seattle people will always drive cars," and recoil at the thought of a state income tax. They're not conservatives in the revanchist, contemporary sense, but more in the Nordic sense, in that their ideal city is the Seattle of recent memory, with bungalows and Volvos as far as the eye can see. "Greater Seattle" folks represent an emerging, coalescing constituency of young people being squished by static wages, rising rents, ballooning student debt, and a disinterest in ever owning a car; traditional but aging organized labor and POC communities, concerned about the same; urbanistas who think four shoe boxes are better than one bungalow, and the rest of the usual suspects. It's this fissure that's going to determine the shape of city politics over the next decade, and ultimately what our city is going to become: an enclave for the wealthy surrounded by sprawl or an emergent world-city that extends Seattle's regional dominance for another century.
Posted by chaseacross on January 29, 2014 at 11:16 PM · Report this

Add a comment


Want great deals and a chance to win tickets to the best shows in Seattle? Join The Stranger Presents email list!

All contents © Index Newspapers, LLC
1535 11th Ave (Third Floor), Seattle, WA 98122
Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Use | Takedown Policy