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Poll makes clear: Seattle mayor's race is tight

Jenny Durkan and Mike McGinn
Jenny Durkan and Mike McGinn

An exclusive KUOW/KING Survey USA poll on the Seattle mayor’s race shows there’s not much daylight separating the candidates.

Former Mayor Mike McGinn is perhaps the best-known candidate in the race, and he got 19 percent in the poll of likely voters.

Former federal prosecutor Jenny Durkan had 14 percent. She's raised more than $250,000, far more than any other candidate.

But there are big caveats: The margin of error is plus or minus 4.5 percentage points, meaning that each candidate is in a statistical tie with at least one adjacent candidate.

And 38 percent of respondents were undecided with three weeks to go before ballots start showing up in mail boxes.

(Read the full poll results here.)

Further complicating things is how close the rest of the field is:

  • Lawyer and activist Nikkita Oliver, 9 percent
  • State Senator Bob Hasegawa, 8 percent
  • Former state Rep. Jessyn Farrell, 6 percent
  • Urban planner Cary Moon, 3 percent
  • The other 15 candidates were at 1 percent or less.

Then there's current Mayor Ed Murray. A third of likely voters said he should have run for re-election, and around the same number say they would have voted for him. Of these, more than a quarter said they favored McGinn as a second choice.
Murray was considered a shoo-in for re-election until April, when a civil lawsuit was filed accusing him of sexually abusing underage teens back in the 1980s. Murray has denied the accusations, but he dropped out of the race, saying the lawsuit made his re-election unlikely and he had to focus on defending himself. The lawsuit was dropped last week, and Murray hinted that a write-in campaign was possible.

The KUOW/KING 5 poll also provides some insight into who is supporting the candidates.

McGinn found support from young, male, middle-income people. He had backing from Republicans and independents.

Durkan’s supporters tended to be independents, older, female and affluent.

Oliver got significant support from liberals and Democrats.

[asset-audio[{"description": "David Hyde and Amy Radil of KUOW's politics team talk about the KUOW/KING 5 poll results with Kim Malcolm.", "fid": "137253", "uri": "npraudio://201706/NEWS_20170621_Mayor2wayWebxtra.mp3"}]]Beyond the mayor’s race, the poll found:

  • 66 percent of respondents supported a new tax on city’s highest earners; 23 percent opposed the income tax; and 12 percent were unsure.
  • 48 percent supported rezoning parts of the city from single-family homes to multi-family; 29 percent opposed that; 22 percent weren’t sure.
  • Respondents were split on a new tax on soda and other sweetened drinks: 31 percent were in favor, no matter how the revenue was used, 31 percent were opposed, and 38 percent said it depended on how revenue would be used.

On a topic with significant political ramifications in Seattle, people were split over a new youth jail planned for the Central District: 29 percent said don’t build the jail at all; 23 percent said build it as planned; 27 percent said build it elsewhere; 22 percent were unsure.
On the issue of homelessness, 86 percent described it as a major problem or crisis. And their preferred response from Seattle’s next mayor? Raise taxes — 30 percent; followed by more sanctioned camps, 24 percent; break up illegal camping, 15 percent; reduce services, 10 percent. 

[asset-images[{"caption": "", "fid": "137257", "style": "placed_full", "uri": "public://201706/20170622-poll-homeless.JPG", "attribution": "Credit KUOW/KING SurveyUSA poll"}]]SurveyUSA interviewed 900 city of Seattle adults 06/06/17 through 06/18/17. Of the adults, 800 were registered to vote. Of the registered voters, SurveyUSA identified 503 who were most likely to vote in the 08/01/17 primary. This research was conducted using blended sample, mixed mode. Respondents reachable on a home telephone (39 percent of likely voters) were interviewed on their home telephone in he recorded voice of a professional announcer. Respondents not reachable on a home telephone (61 percent of likely voters) were shown a questionnaire on the display of their smartphone, tablet or other electronic device.

Editor's note: KUOW and KING are joining with Geekwire and Seattle CityClub to host a mayoral debate July 17. The poll's findings will be one factor in determining which candidates are invited to attend the debate. The event will have a live audience at Impact Hub Seattle and will be broadcast live on KUOW and KING and across the social media streams of the partner organizations.

Year started with KUOW: 2004