Recent poll of Washington voters reveals interesting results

Opinion: The difference between opinion-based content and news

Homelessness and transportation top the issues on the minds of those polled

I find that it’s often interesting to find out what my fellow Washingtonians are thinking when it comes to the issues that impact our lives the most. I am comforted to find out that others feel as I do on a given topic, even if that doesn’t usually lead to any real change in our day-to-day lives, due in large part to the painstakingly slow-moving, ineffective mechanism we refer to as the legislative branch of our government.

The results of the latest Crosscut/Elway Poll. showed up in my inbox last week. The poll of 405 registered voters in Washington was conducted Dec. 26-29. Twenty-nine of those polled were from King County, 50 percent were from other Western Washington communities and 20 percent of those polled resided in Eastern Washington. Fifty-two percent of those polled were female and 47 percent were male and the results had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 5 percent.

Let’s take a look at some of the results:

Homelessness

It comes as no surprise to me that homelessness is the top concern for voters in Washington state heading into 2020, according to the poll. I can’t even remember being aware of the issue in Clark County two to three years ago now I see it up close and personal every day I leave my home.

A collection of waste is shown in this recent photo from the Arnold Park/Burnt Bridge Creek Trail area in Vancouver. Homelessness was the top concern of Washington photos in a recent Crosscut/Elway Poll. Photo by Mike Schultz
A collection of waste is shown in this recent photo from the Arnold Park/Burnt Bridge Creek Trail area in Vancouver. Homelessness was the top concern of Washington photos in a recent Crosscut/Elway Poll. Photo by Mike Schultz

One-third of poll participants said social service issues are the most pressing in the state; 31 percent cited homelessness specifically. In the same survey one year ago, 21 percent named homelessness specifically.

Half of respondents support using the state’s Rainy Day Fund for homelessness programs, split along party lines. Eighty percent of Democrats support the idea; 80 percent of Republicans oppose it. Independents opposed the idea, 54-37 percent. The voters most likely to support it were people under age 35 (63 percent) and women (57 percent). Most likely to oppose were rural voters (58 percent).

Imagine that, Democrats want to spend our tax dollars and Republicans don’t. If you read this space, you know I tend to lean to the right when it comes to fiscal issues, but on the issue of homelessness, I cringe when I hear how much we are spending on the environmental waste associated with the crisis and I can’t help but wonder if there is a more effective use of our tax dollars to actually address the problem rather than just clean up after it.

According to reporting by Clark County Today’s Chris Brown in recent months, the Washington State Department of Transportation says homeless encampments on state right-of-ways increased from 217 in 2015 to 1,073 in 2018. Clark County had 155 of those sites, the second largest number of any county in the state. WSDOT officials indicated 10,620 people were living outside in 2018. That number obviously grew significantly in 2019. The cost of cleaning up those homeless sites grew from $182,000 in 2008 to $1.5 million in 2017.

The broad recognition of homelessness as an issue stands out, pollster Stuart Elway said.

“Not only did it top the public’s agenda for the second year in a row — by a much wider margin than last year — but it was the top issue named by voters in both parties, in every region and in every size community in the state,” he said.

Transportation

I often tell people, and many others I don’t have to tell, I’ve written more words on our transportation congestion issues than any other topic in the past three years.

When it comes to transportation, a news release from Crosscut.com revealed “Washington voters supported 2-to-1 securing new revenue to continue building out the region’s transportation system, rather than cutting or delaying programs.’’ Photo by Mike Schultz
When it comes to transportation, a news release from Crosscut.com revealed “Washington voters supported 2-to-1 securing new revenue to continue building out the region’s transportation system, rather than cutting or delaying programs.’’ Photo by Mike Schultz

When it comes to transportation, a news release from Crosscut.com revealed “Washington voters supported 2-to-1 securing new revenue to continue building out the region’s transportation system, rather than cutting or delaying programs. Transportation spending has been thrown into question by the November passage of Initiative 976, which aims to slash the license and vehicle taxes that fund transportation. The measure has been challenged in court. Voters supported finding new money for transportation 58-26 percent.’’

Gov. Inslee

I believe the best way to describe the results by those polled to Washington Gov. Jay Inslee would be to say they were largely apathetic. He obviously has his supporters and detractors, but in my opinion, the poll shows he’s vulnerable if a strong challenger were to emerge.

Gov. Jay Inslee
Gov. Jay Inslee
  • Inslee’s performance was rated as “excellent” or “good” by 40 percent; 57 percent called it “only fair” or “poor.”
  • Most said Inslee’s unsuccessful bid to be the Democratic candidate for president did not change their opinion. Those who said it gave them a more negative impression outnumbered those who claimed it gave them a more positive impression, 29 percent to 17 percent.
  • Now running for a third term as governor, Inslee leads the field, with 46 percent supporting his run; 34 percent are undecided; GOP candidate Tim Eyman is the candidate with the second highest support with 7 percent.

“Voter evaluation of Jay Inslee’s performance has been remarkably steady,” Elway said. “Both his predecessors, Governors Gregoire and Locke, had higher positive numbers early in their terms, and higher negative numbers late in their terms, than Inslee has had.”

Other issues

The poll also gauged voter support for a variety of legislative ideas. Here’s some of those results:

• More than 75 percent in every demographic supported strengthening consumer protections for personal data online.

• A requirement for comprehensive sex education in schools received 56 percent support overall.

• Two-thirds of voters surveyed said they supported requiring gasoline and fossil fuel companies to reduce carbon emissions.

About The Author

Ken Vance got his start in the newspaper industry in 1987 as a reporter at The Columbian Newspaper in Vancouver. Vance graduated from Stevenson High School in Stevenson, WA, and attended Clark College in Vancouver. He worked for The Columbian from 1987-2001. He was most recently a staff member of The Reflector Newspaper in Battle Ground, where he served as editor since 2010 and reporter since 2007. Vance’s work in the newspaper industry has won him multiple awards, including a first place award from the Society of Professional Journalists for in-depth reporting.

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