New Poll: Murray-Smiley Race is Slightly Tightening


Sen. Patty Murray enjoys a sizeable and steady lead over Republican challenger Tiffany Smiley in two newly published polls, with one survey showing her topping 50 percent and the other at 49 percent, as Washington voters begin to receive their mail-in ballots.

A statewide survey by Public Policy Polling, its third this year in the Murray-Smiley contest, puts the 30-year incumbent at 52 percent with her challenger, a Pasco nurse and public speaker, trailing with 42 percent.  Six percent of likely voters surveyed said they were undecided in the state’s marquee race.

The Washington Poll, done by Survey USA for The Seattle Times and partners, has Murray in the lead by a 49-41 percent margin, with 10 percent undecided. The poll shows Republican voters “coming home” to Smiley. Republican Smiley took only 33 percent of the vote in August’s primary and her support stood at 33 percent in a previous Survey USA poll.

The Survey USA findings show a whopping gender gap, with Murray enjoying a 55-35 percent lead among women, while Smiley leads 49-43 percent with male voters.  Murray has ceaselessly championed her support for abortion rights in TV advertising, while attacking Smiley for praising the Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe v. Wade.

Other findings of the Public Policy Polling survey are worthy of note.  It found Democrats with a 49-40 percent advantage in a “generic” congressional ballot. (Two of the state’s U.S. House seats, in the 8th District and 3rd District, are being hotly contested.)

The same poll showed a tight contest for Secretary of State between appointed Democratic incumbent Steve Hobbs and Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson, who is running as an independent.  The Secretary of State is Washington’s chief election officer, overseeing a mail-in ballot system used by five Western states. Three-term Republican Secretary of State Kim Wyman resigned to take a post in the Biden Administration. The poll found Anderson with 34 percent, Hobbs at 33 percent, with 32 percent of likely voters undecided.  The job has been held for years by moderate Republicans, but this year three Republicans ran for Secretary of State in the August 2 primary, and none made it onto the November ballot.

While Anderson has courted Republican support, State Rep. Brad Klippert, R-Kennewick is running a write-in campaign for the job.  Klippert was a losing primary candidate against U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash.  When Klippert’s name is included, PPP found that support for the independent Anderson tails off sharply.

The Survey USA poll, taken Oct. 14-19, reached 875 adults including 589 likely voters, with a margin of error of plus/minus 5 percent.  Public Policy Polling contacted 792 likely voters this week:  Its findings have a margin of error of plus/minus 3.5 percent.  The firm has Democratic roots but was notable for predicting Democrats’ mid-term “shellackings” (President Obama’s word) in the 2010 and 2014 mid-term elections.

It has surveyed the Murray-Smiley race three times, all for the liberal Northwest Progressive Institute.  The Murray lead dipped to 9 percent in one survey but has remained fairly steady. A recent statewide Crosscut/Elway Poll pegged Murray’s lead at 50-37 percent. An Emerson College poll, early this month, had it 51-42 percent for Murray with 7 percent undecided.

Only a Republican pollster, Trafalgar, has found a neck-and-neck race, putting Murray ahead 48-46 percent.  The figure has been used relentlessly in Smiley’s daily barrage of six to eight email appeals for money.  In a Friday email blast, the campaign claimed: “According to the latest poll, Tiffany is only 2 POINTS behind career politician Patty Murray.”  The claim is contradicted by the other four surveys.

Washington is considered a solid “blue” state.  Ronald Reagan in 1984 is the last Republican presidential candidate to carry the state.  The Republicans have not elected a Governor since 1980, and last won a U.S. Senate seat with Slade Gorton’s reelection in 1994. Yet, there is a solid Republican voter base in the state.  Long-shot 2020 Republican gubernatorial candidate Loren Culp received 43.12 percent against Gov. Jay Inslee, and GOP candidate Matt Larkin took 43.47 percent losing to popular Attorney General Bob Ferguson. 

Murray and Smiley have mounted multimillion dollar campaigns.   TV spots are running cheek-to-jowl on Seattle TV, with Murray hammering at Smiley’s anti-abortion views and dangers of Republicans regaining Senate control, while Smiley blames Murray for social problems ranging from inflation to the closure of a Starbucks store on Capitol Hill.

Murray’s closest reelection race came in 2010, a five-point victory over Republican Dino Rossi.  

Joel Connelly
Joel Connelly
I worked for Seattle Post-Intelligencer from 1973 until it ceased print publication in 2009, and from 2009 to 6/30/2020. During that time, I wrote about 9 presidential races, 11 Canadian and British Columbia elections‎, four doomed WPPSS nuclear plants, six Washington wilderness battles, creation of two national Monuments (Hanford Reach and San Juan Islands), a 104 million acre Alaska Lands Act, plus the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area.


  1. She’ll win but it will be much closer than Dems would like.
    Murray should have resigned 2 years ago and allowed Inslee to appoint her successor.

    Will Dems learn?

  2. Thanks, Joel. A useful piece. But Wow, who chose that photo? I just saw her and that’s not how she looks. Looks like something from a Smiley ad. Bias? Patty will win and work hard for us for another six years.

  3. It isn’t just choice of photo, it has been “posterized.” Normal gradations of color reduced to blotches of maybe a dozen tones. If it isn’t obvious on Murray’s face, see the effect on her jacket. The result naturally would make anyone look pretty rough.

  4. Looks like she will remain in office until she is embalmed and stood up like those other dinosaurs in the house and senate.
    I am in favor of term limits. Didn’t think it was a good idea in the past but certainly have changed my mind. These folks’ hand on until it’s embarrassing.
    We need a new generation of leaders and they are waiting in line. There is a broad base of knowledge, experience and the willingness to serve.
    How long do we wait, dear God, how long!

  5. The ad from smiley campaign that attacks Murray for every problem in America, I just saw a republican candidate from another state run the same ad, they just changed the names. Thus smiley premise is making her to appear to lack a semblance of Integrity and makes me wonder how one can trust her to be honorable. Not to smart an advertising job, maybe the rep uh should do some research to find out the public is not as dumb as they think or want us to be.


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