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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Data shows Seattle area is more liberal than ever

A person walks near Amazon office buildings in downtown Seattle on Jan. 17.  (Erika Schultz/Seattle Times)
By Gene Balk Seattle Times

SEATTLE – You may have thought the Seattle area couldn’t get much more liberal than it already was. Think again.

New data from market research firm Nielsen shows that in the Seattle metropolitan division, comprising King and Snohomish counties, identification with the Democratic Party is at its highest point since the surveys were first conducted.

Nielsen surveys hundreds of thousands of adults across the country about their political-party affiliation. The data is based on surveys conducted from January 2022 to February 2023 and shows 55% of adults who live in King and Snohomish counties said they are Democrats or lean Democratic. In raw numbers, that’s a projected 1.4 million people out of the 2.5 million total population in the two counties.

Keep in mind, that’s the percentage of the entire population age 18 and up – it includes people who may not have any political-party affiliation because they are not registered to vote and people who aren’t eligible to vote (such as people who are not U.S. citizens).

When the surveys were first conducted in the 2004 to 2005 period, just 44% of adults in King and Snohomish counties identified as Democrats or leaned Democratic. In less than 10 years, the share of the population that is Democratic or Democratic-leaning has increased by about 11 percentage points.

Why has that happened?

The Seattle area has had a massive influx of new arrivals over the past decade. An even higher percentage of them are likely liberal compared with the folks who already live here. And there is some evidence that Americans are moving to areas that align better with their politics, making blue areas bluer and red areas redder.

Anecdotally, a lot of people I’ve spoken with who’ve moved to the Seattle area from more conservative parts of the county say one of the things that drew them here is our progressive politics.

In the new data, only about 20% of adults in King and Snohomish counties – a projected 509,000 people – said they were Republicans or leaned Republican. People who identified as independents made up 9% or a projected 226,000 adults. And 16%, or around 407,000 adults, had either no political-party affiliation or identified with a different political party, such as the Libertarian Party or the Green Party.

Could the Seattle area become even more of a blue bubble? I think so, seeing as there are still a handful of places where Democrats are even more dominant.

Among the 58 metropolitan areas and metropolitan divisions with at least 1 million adults, Seattle ranked eighth-most Democratic, tied with Washington D.C. At No. 1 was San Francisco with around 68% of the adult population identifying as Democrats or leaning Democratic. Philadelphia was No. 2 at 65%, followed by Oakland, California, at 60%.

At the other end of the spectrum, Fort Worth, Texas, was the least blue, with just 29% of adults identifying as Democrats or leaning Democratic. Nashville, Tennessee, was second from the bottom at 31%, followed by Oklahoma City at 32%.

Comparing King and Snohomish counties, King was clearly the bluer of the two. Around 58% of adults in King County were Democrats or leaned Democratic, while only 18% were Republican or leaned Republican. In Snohomish County, Democrats were not quite the majority, at 46% of adults. About 27% were Republican or leaned Republican.

The Tacoma metropolitan division, which only includes Pierce County, was less blue than King or Snohomish. About 40% of the adult population identified as Democrats or leaned Democratic, and 29.5% were Republican or leaned Republican. About 12% were independent and 18% had a different affiliation or none.