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Spin Control

Elway Poll: Trouble for Murray in 2016?

Less than half the voters surveyed recently gave U.S. Sen. Patty Murray a high approval rating or would vote to re-elect her if the the election were being held this year, a new poll says.

While that would seem to be good news for any opponent planning to take her on next year, she does beat her recently announced GOP rival, Chris Vance by nearly 2-to-1 in The Elway Poll of 500 voters conducted Oct. 13-15. On the plus side for Vance, however, when he's matched up against Murray, voters are about three times as likely to pick him as the generic "someone else."

Murray got support from 43 percent of voters surveyed, Vance got 23 percent. Six years ago, a generic Republican -- the race was wide open and several GOP candidates were angling to get in -- got 28 percent in a similar poll against Murray. 

The key to the race would seem to be voters who rate her job performance as "only fair", which was slightly more than one out of four in the survey. 

The results prompted Vance to proclaim in a press release that Murray was "extremely vulnerable", although that's not exactly what pollster H. Stuart Elway concluded.

Elway noted that Murray regularly goes into an election campaign with less than half of the voters giving her a good or excellent job approval rating, and more saying she was doing a poor or only fair job.  "Yet she has won them all, against formidable opponents," he said.

Six years ago was an exception -- her "excellent/good" rating was at 48 percent and her "poor/only fair" was at 38 percent. Her ratings right now are similar to an April 1998 poll, the graphics that accompany the current results show.

That November, she beat U.S. Rep. Linda Smith 58 percent to 42 percent. In 2004, she beat U.S. Rep. George Nethercutt 55 percent to 43 percent. In 2010 she beat Republican Dino Rossi 52 percent to 48 percent.

Vance describes those 2010 results as "she almost lost that race" and believes the lower approval rating bodes well for his chances in 2016. But to be fair, Murray won in 2010 by about 120,000 votes out of 2.5 million cast. That's not "almost lost" in everyone's reckoning.

It should also be noted that Vance is not the only challenger to Murray. Ted Cummings, a Kaiser Steelworker and rancher from Colbert, is mounting an independent campaign for U.S. Senate and isn't in The Elway Poll.

Cummings' road to Congress would seem to be the more difficult. Washington voters have never elected an independent to statewide office, and the top two primary makes it very difficult for someone who isn't a member of a major party to even reach the general election ballot.



Jim Camden
Jim Camden joined The Spokesman-Review in 1981 and retired in 2021. He is currently the political and state government correspondent covering Washington state.

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