Earlier this week CASE, the Political Action Committee of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, sent out to reporters an excerpt from a recent telephone poll they commissioned.
The poll was conducted by EMC Research in five of the seven Council districts (1,3,4,6 and 7). Districts were polled on varying days in the latter part of October, with the earliest (District 3) October 17-20, and the latest October 22-24 — but all were at least two days after Amazon announced its controversial $1 million contribution to CASE. EMC polled 250 likely voters in each district; the margin of error is +/- 6.20 percentage points.
The excerpt of the poll that CASE released included responses to three questions:
- Would you say you are following what’s going on in the Seattle city council elections very closely, somewhat closely, only now and then, or not that much at all?
- Do you feel things in Seattle are generally going in the right direction, or do you feel things have gotten pretty seriously off on the wrong track?
- Please tell me if you have a strongly favorable, somewhat favorable, somewhat unfavorable or strongly unfavorable opinion of the Seattle City Council.
The published results suggest that Seattle voters are very engaged with the City Council elections, think that things have gotten off on the wrong track, and have an unfavorable view of the City Council. District 3 is an outlier, as it seems to be split evenly between positive and negative (within the margin of error) though the positives are tepid and the negatives are stronger. The data also seems to suggest that in districts 1, 6 and 7 the view on whether the city is on the right or wrong track has cratered in the past month, and in districts 4 and 6 the opinion on the City Council has soured even further.
Some thoughts on interpreting the poll:
- The margin of error is high. That doesn’t convert any of this into good news for the City Council — the numbers are still terrible — but it means that much of the poll results don’t clearly establish new trends since the beginning of September.
- The questions released are the ones that match CASE’s campaign narrative: this is a change election where voters have an opportunity to replace the current City Council with one that will be more effective and get the city going in the right direction again. The fact that these specific results are being published now is no accident.
- CASE asked more than three questions in the poll, and the fact that they didn’t release any of the others could be significant. There are some they would never release regardless of how favorable the numbers were, in particular candidate preference. But questions about specific issues (homelessness, taxes, etc) may not have yielded the results that CASE was looking for to support their narrative.
- What about districts 2 and 5? According to Alicia Teel, Vice President of Marketing and Communications for the Chamber of Commerce, CASE is still fielding its poll in District 2, and it didn’t poll in District 5. That alone is telling, and suggests that CASE might no longer think District 5 is a competitive race where additional investment might influence the outcome. Perhaps good news for Debora Juarez.
- District 3, which has attracted the most attention — and the most money — is largely unchanged in the last month. Either the competing campaigns are cancelling each other out, or voters have already made up their minds.
- These results don’t tell us how many voters in Districts 1 and 3 (the two districts polled that have incumbent candidates) dislike the City Council as a whole, but like their own representative and are happy to vote for her again. These results also don’t really tell us whether Amazon’s big contribution changed the way people are likely to vote — or motivate/demotivate them to vote at all.
Clearly CASE is trying to re-assert its campaign narrative, after two bad weeks in which Amazon’s contribution led to a negative press cycle and reinforced the competing narrative that the business community is trying to buy the election.