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Sanders has edge, but many undecided in Crosscut/Elway poll of likely Democratic voters in Washington

UPDATED: Thu., Feb. 27, 2020

A recent poll of likely Washington Democratic voters gave Bernie Sanders a lead over his opponents in the state’s March 10 presidential primary, but nearly 1 in 4 respondents said they hadn’t yet picked a candidate.

The numbers from the Crosscut/Elway poll released Wednesday indicate a healthy base of support for Sanders, who carried the state in the 2016 caucus system, but show that 22% of respondents were still unsure as of Feb. 18 of their choice to take on President Donald Trump in the November general election.

Sanders was the first pick of 21% of survey respondents. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has spent tens of thousands of dollars on TV ads and mailers in the Inland Northwest, polled in second place, with 15%. Sens. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts each polled at 11%. Former Vice President Joe Biden polled at 10%, and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg polled at 9%.

The survey was conducted via both landline and cellphone and included text invitations to an online poll. Researchers contacted 404 registered voters likely to cast ballots in the Democratic primary;the poll has a margin of error of 5%. Roughly reflecting the state’s population imbalance, 83% of the respondents were from Western Washington.

Poll respondents gave differing reasons for their choices. For those backing Sanders, 55% said their support was based on his “overall philosophy or approach to governing.” A plurality of Bloomberg backers, about 1 in 3, said they supported the largely self-financed candidate because of his “electability.”

The poll was conducted from Feb. 15-18, before Bloomberg’s first appearance on stage ahead of the Nevada caucuses. Sanders, who made a campaign stop in Tacoma on the final day of the poll, won the Nevada caucuses handily, and Bloomberg’s first debate performance was widely criticized.

Researchers asked respondents about their 2016 picks and whom they were supporting in the 2020 contest. Sanders supporters four years ago indicated they were largely staying with their pick this time as well. Survey respondents who backed Hillary Clinton in 2016 were widely split when asked about their preferences this year. A plurality said they were undecided; Bloomberg, with support from 18% of those who preferred Clinton four years ago, had the highest share of any of this year’s candidates in that category.

Ballots were mailed last week for the Washington presidential primary, which will be responsible for assigning 107 delegates to the Democratic National Convention this summer. As of Tuesday, the Spokane County Elections Office reported 13,392 ballots had been returned, out of the 333,806 registered voters in the county. That translates to a 4% return rate with two weeks of voting left to go.

Those numbers do not break out turnout by political preference, meaning that ballot totals also include Republicans voting in their noncompetitive primary.

The poll was a collaboration between Crosscut, an online newspaper based in Seattle and owned by Cascade Public Media, and Elway Research Inc., a Seattle-based nonpartisan polling firm.

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