LOCAL NEWS

Forget Washington’s east-west divide; the real fight is rural vs urban

Feb 6, 2018, 5:40 AM | Updated: 10:36 am
(File, AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)...
(File, AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
(File, AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
LISTEN: LISTEN: Forget Washington's east-west divide; the real fight is rural vs urban

For decades, pollsters have called it the Cascade Curtain, the apparent voting-habit divide between Western and Eastern Washington. Eastern Washington votes Republican, the idea goes, while the state’s Pacific coast and Puget Sound counties tilt liberal.

Cannabis sellers find an ally in fights over gun rights

At its best, the theory was only ever partially true. Dan Evans, a Republican former governor and U.S. Senator, hailed from Seattle. Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, first won office in Yakima. But the curtain broadly worked to describe political distinctions on either side of the seam of mountains that divide the state.

But it might be time to shove aside that curtain for good, political scientists say. Recent voter polls, election results, and economic data reveal that Washington’s divide now is urban and rural, not east-west.

Stuart Elway, who has studied voting habits in Washington State since 1975, said the shift became abundantly clear in the 2016 elections and more so with every poll he’s done since. Coastal counties that had not voted for a Republican since Herbert Hoover voted for Donald Trump.

“What happened this last time, in 2016, was that Republicans – Trump particularly – carried some counties along the Washington coast,” said Elway, who runs the nonpartisan Elway Research Inc. “Grays Harbor, Pacific, Cowlitz.

“It got people thinking that there was much more going on than this east-west divide. It’s complicated; we organize our politics by interest but our government is organized by geography.”

The president carried 27 of the 39 counties in the state but only for a total of 38 percent of the vote. “We’re in a state where 54 percent of the voters live in four counties around Puget Sound,” he said.

The least prosperous counties turned to Donald Trump, he added. Trump carried, 25 of the 26 least prosperous counties. This created another odd effect: According to state budget numbers, there are only six counties in Washington that are net contributor or “donor” counties. In other words, they generate more revenue than they take from the state budget. (King, Pierce, and Snohomish are among them.)

The rest are net recipients. But voter perception, he said, doesn’t match reality. Voters in the least prosperous counties – such as Ferry County, for example – generally feel like local tax dollars are headed away to fund social programs in urban centers.

“It’s a big theme — in Eastern Washington particularly,” Elway said. “When we’ve asked people about that, people in the recipient counties, only 12 percent correctly answer that their county gets more back than they put in.”

Politicians know that there is real resentment built on the inaccurate notion that hard-working rural residents are funding urban services. “That sentiment has been used and exploited,” he said. But when political scientists look deeper, that isn’t the whole reason for the urban-rural divide.

Within Elway’s and other’s polls, the perception about root causes of poverty, for example, vary sharply depending on if the respondent lives in a city or a rural area. Generally, rural respondents see poverty as stemming from a lack of effort and urban respondents see it as “circumstances beyond (a person’s) control.”

More from Mike Lewis

Local News

comic con...
MyNorthwest Staff

Emerald City Comic Con returns Dec. 2-5 after being cancelled in 2020

Emerald City Comic Con didn't happen in 2020 due to the pandemic, but the popular four-day event returns to Seattle on Dec. 2-5.
17 hours ago
Whatcom County...
MyNorthwest Staff

Sumas residents urged to evacuate, National Guard expected in Whatcom County on Sunday

The Washington State National Guard has been pre-deployed in Whatcom County ahead of this weekend’s projected storm systems.
2 days ago
police, Lake City seattle...
KIRO 7 News Staff

Person seriously injured in shooting Friday inside Tacoma Mall

A person is in serious conditions after they were shot in the middle of the Tacoma Mall food court on Friday.
3 days ago
Sawant recall...
Dalton Day

A recall Sawant PAC has been released from campaign contribution limit

The Washington State Public Disclosure Commission has released a recall Councilmember Kshama Sawant PAC from its campaign contribution limits.
3 days ago
hand sanitizer...
Dalton Day

COVID-era artifact, emergency-produced hand sanitizer, comes to an end for local distillery

Copperworks Distilling Company has been ordered to shut down its manufacturing of hand sanitizer, which provided critical health care supplies.
3 days ago
COVID variant...
Charlie Harger

‘Bellwether bond’ down over COVID-variant concerns, ‘sending strong signal,’ says local analyst

Analyst Mike Alfstad of Seattle's Alfstad Capital clarifies how the newly identified COVID variant has affected the 10-Year Treasury yield.
3 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Experience Anacortes

Coastal Christmas Celebration Week in Anacortes

With minimal travel time required and every activity under the sun, Anacortes is the perfect vacation spot for all ages.
...

Delayed-Onset PTSD: Signs and Symptoms

Lakeside-Milam Recovery Centers SPONSORED — You’re probably familiar with post-traumatic stress disorder. Often abbreviated as PTSD, this condition is diagnosed when a person experiences a set of symptoms for at least a month after a traumatic event. However, for some people, these issues take longer to develop. This results in a diagnosis of delayed-onset PTSD […]
...

Medicare open enrollment ends Dec. 7. Free unbiased help is here!

Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner SPONSORED — Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period, also called the Annual Election Period, is Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. During this time, people enrolled in Medicare can: Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan and vice versa. Join, drop or switch a Part D prescription drug plan, […]
...

How to Have a Stress-Free Real Estate Experience

The real estate industry has adapted and sellers are taking full advantage of new real estate models. One of which is Every Door Real Estate.
...
IQ Air

How Poor Air Quality Is Affecting Our Future Athletes

You cannot control your child’s breathing environment 100% of the time, but you can make a huge impact.
...
Swedish Health Services

Special Coverage: National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

There are a wide variety of treatment options available for men with prostate cancer. The most technologically advanced treatment option in the Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform.
Forget Washington’s east-west divide; the real fight is rural vs urban