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What new polling numbers can (and can’t) tell us about Seattle’s major election races

Ballots and voter pamphlets for the 2021 election have now been sent out. (MyNorthwest photo)

The Northwest Progressive Institute (NPI) released new polling numbers for Seattle’s major primary election races. But what exactly can we glean from the data?

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Between Monday, July 12, and Thursday, July 15, Change Research collected online surveys from 617 voters on behalf of the NPI, asking who they planned to vote for in August’s primary for mayor, city council, and city attorney. For those who said they were undecided, they were then asked who they would vote for “if they had to choose.”

Results for all three races begin to give us a sense of how some narratives may be playing out as Seattle enters into the early phase of mail-in voting.

For the mayoral race, voters’ preferences were at least partly a product of demographics.

“There was a significant generational divide,” NPI Founder Andrew Villeneuve told KIRO Radio’s Hanna Scott on Seattle’s Morning News. “Older voters prefer Bruce Harrell, while younger voters are gravitating towards Lorena Gonzalez.”

In the NPI’s polling, Harrell was the preferred candidate for 20% of those surveyed, followed by Gonzalez at 12%, and Colleen Echohawk at 10%. And while Harrell carries “a substantial lead,” Villeneuve also points to one notable caveat.

“Harrell has a significant lead among the people who have an opinion,” he noted.

While 20% of total respondents said they would likely vote for Harrell in August, 32% remained undecided. That leaves a sizable question mark as to where voters might swing in the weeks leading into the final day ballots are due.

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Other races saw even higher totals of voters who have yet to land on a preferred candidate, with 55% still undecided in the Position 8 city council race, 50% for Position 9, and 53% for city attorney. That — and a 4.3% margin of error for the NPI’s polling — leaves much to be decided ahead of August.

While those questions still loom, the larger takeaway for Villeneuve involved voter participation.

“Eighty-eight percent of the survey takers said they were definitely going to vote — it’s a very high number,” he said. “There are people who are very excited about returning their ballot and doing their civic duty, but they’re just not ready to say what their decision is yet.”

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News weekday mornings from 5 – 9 a.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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