OLYMPIA -- For those who are Jonesing for some campaign-style polling, a Seattle political consulting firm is trying to supply a fix.
It has a new poll of 500 voters that suggest if the election were held today, Republican Rob McKenna would beat Democrat Jay Inslee for governor. And President Barack Obama would beat either of the two current GOP frontrunners, Rick Perry or Mitt Romney, for president in Washington state.
Two initiatives on this November's ballot would also pass, according to the Strategies 360 poll.
But there are some caveats and some details beneath the surface of the raw numbers, Kevin Ingham, the firm's vice president for polling, explained Monday morning in the big rollout of the numbers.
The first is, the elections aren't being held today, so quite a bit can happen in terms of public opinion in the meantime.
For example, Initiative 1183, which would get the state out of the liquor business, is ahead with 51 percent yes to 44 percent no. But that actually shows a slight increase in the "no" votes from a similar poll taken before the anti 1183 forces began their TV commercials.
On Initiative 1125, which would restrict the use of tolls on Washington highways and bridges, 50 percent of the folks polled said they'd vote yes compared to 31 percent who said they'd vote no. But 19 percent, nearly one voter in 5, hadn't made up their minds on that proposal.
Ingham said he thinks more people are familiar with 1183 because it's an issue that was on last year's ballot, too.
In the presidential matchups -- which might not actually be the eventual matchup, considering how the GOP race shaped up in 2008 -- Obama's lead is strong with Democrats and terrible with Republicans. But he's lost support among independents, which helped his victory in Washington in '08. He's also faring badly among men, among those without a college degree and, shockingly!, among voters in Eastern Washington.
Romney's pretty well known, with only one voter in 20 saying they didn't recognize the name, although another 18 percent had no opinion of him. But almost one in four voters polled said they were unfamiliar with Perry and nearly one in five said they had no opinion of him. Those who were familiar with Perry were more likely to have an unfavorable view of him; those who were familiar with Romney were evenly split over whether they liked or disliked him.
Asked about the current state of the economy, voters in the survey were much more likely to say it there's worse yet to come, nationally, than say it has turned the corner. Almost two-thirds said they thought the country was on the wrong track, and 57 percent said they thought Washington state was on the wrong track.
In the 2012 gubernatorial race, more than one voter in four said they were unfamiliar with U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee, the Democrat's likely nominee. That goes up to 43 percent among voters polled in East of the Cascades, which suggests that not too many people remember his two years in Congress from Central Washington's 4th District. Of those who do recognize his name, only 15 percent of East Side voters had a favorable opinion of him.
About one voter in five didn't recognize the name of State Attorney General Rob McKenna, the likely GOP nominee for governor, even though he's run twice, and won, statewide for his current post.
McKenna leads Inslee 46 percent to 39 percent, in the horse race question, with McKenna ahead among men and the two about equally split among women. But in a possible demonstration of how early things are, 42 percent of the voters either didn't know McKenna or had no opinion of him; 50 percent either didn't know Inslee or had no opinion of him.
Half the voters surveyed statewide said they had an unfavorable view of the Tea Party movement, while less than one in three said they had a favorable view of it (the rest either were unfamiliar with the term or hand no opinion). That's based on strongly negative feelings about the movement in Western Washington. In Eastern Washington, the Tea Party has a plurality of voters saying they have a favorable view of it.
When asked how the state should address it's current budget problems, Pollster Ingham said he sees support for the Legislature raising taxes to cover at least part of that shortfall. But the analysis of these results could generate the most questions about the survey analysis.
First, the state doesn't actually have a deficit, the term used in the question, because unlike the federal government it can't run a deficit. Second, the current projected shortfall is slightly smaller than what pollsters asked.
But those are small compared to the way Ingham groups the results, which in raw numbers are:
Only with spending cuts......................................... 19%
Mostly with spending cuts...................................... 21%
Equally with spending cuts and tax increases....44%
Mostly with tax increases..........................................8%
Only with tax increases..............................................3%
Ingham believes that the bottom three answers can be grouped to show that public opinion does not jibe with the national debate that centers around just cutting the budget and not raising taxes.
But there's a different way to look at this, particularly in the context of Washington state politics, which may be more important. First, numbers to compare are the 40 percent who are talking spending cuts (which represents the conservative-Republican approach to budget problems in recent years, in a fairly unified bloc) and the 11 percent that are talking tax increases (which has represented the liberal-progressive wing of the Democrats, who are more splintered, particularly in the state Senate.)
Add to that the fact that tax increases require a two-thirds majority in the Legislature, and it would seem that's a tough choice to push because even adding things the way Ingham does, there's only about half who are favoring some sort of split.