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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spin Control

Poll: Clinton, Sanders both lead GOP field

Democratic presidential  hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders each had more support than the three remaining GOP candidates in a recent Elway Poll. 

That might be explained by simple math: The Democratic vote is split two ways and the Republican vote three ways, and while Washington residents don't register by party there are slightly more voters who identify as Democrats in most surveys. 

The Elway Poll surveyed 503 registered voters picked at random last week, and came up with these results:

  • Clinton 24%
  • Sanders 21%
  • Trump 11%
  • Cruz 11%
  • Kasich 6%
  • Other 2%
  • None 4%
  • Undecided 22%

Pollsters also asked the voters surveyed whether they plan to vote in the May 24 presidential primary. This is where it gets a bit interesting, because 59 percent said they definitely plan to vote, and another 21 percent said they probably will vote.

That suggests a big chunk of those voters -- the ones who would vote for Clinton or Sanders -- could be casting a ballot that is meaningless. The Washington Democratic Party will pay no attention, not a bit, to the results of the primary because it is selecting its pledged delegates through the caucus/convention system. A Democrat interested in selecting the nominee and familiar with those rules doesn't have much reason to vote in the primary. 

A Republican, however, does because the vote for a nominee of the state's delegates at the GOP national convention will be cast based on the primary vote. At least in the first round. In succeeding rounds, if there are any, delegates theoretically will be free to vote for any candidate.

For independents, who often balk at identifying with either party even if they vote 99 percent of the time for one, the presidential primary might be a bit off-putting because a voter will have to declare that they either are a Republican or consider themselves a Democrat to vote.

Pollster H. Stuart Elway says the number of people who actually will vote in that primary could well be lower than the survey results. After all, 59 percent is higher than 11 of the last 14 statewide elections. But it is a measure of how closely people seem to be following the presidential campaign. Two-thirds of those surveyed said they were paying "a lot" of attention to the campaign 

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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