OLYMPIA – Democrat incumbent Patty Murray leads Republican challenger Dino Rossi in a “highly partisan” race, a new poll by Elway Research Inc., suggests.
If they were voting today, half of the 500 likely voters contacted by the company between last Thursday and Sunday said they’d vote for Murray, who is seeking her fourth term; 41 percent said they’d vote for Rossi, a former state senator and two-time gubernatorial candidate.
The poll contacted likely voters in patterns that represent the state’s population and political makeup. It has a 4.5 percent margin of error.
Murray and Rossi each get the vast majority of voters in their parties. Rossi had the edge among independent voters and stronger leads in Eastern Washington, in Pierce and Kitsap counties and among voters making more than $75,000 a year. Murray was doing best in King County and among women, baby boomers, retirees, and those making less than $50,000 a year.
Seven percent of the voters – enough to decide the election – said they haven’t picked a candidate, pollster H. Stuart Elway said. If they split evenly, Murray would win handily, but a more conservative approach suggests that about three-fourths of those undecided voters would be likely to vote for Rossi because if they were going to vote for the incumbent they’d already know it. That would make it a much closer race, but still in Murray’s favor.
Any path to victory for Rossi means he’ll have to go after voters who currently support Murray, Elway said. “And you thought this campaign has been hard-hitting so far,” he said.
Jennifer Morris, a spokeswoman for Rossi, said she considered the results “a little iffy” considering other polls had a closer race. “Even the Democrats put out a poll last week that had it closer,” she said.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee released with Murray at 50 percent and Rossi at 45 percent. Some previous polls have had Rossi ahead.
Murray’s campaign refused to comment except to say she was focused on voters, not polls.
Elway said variations may be coming from how the surveys are conducted; some use machines with recorded scripts that ask respondents to press a number on the phone to answer questions. He used live interviewers and only interviewed likely voters.