We are two states: Seattle and Washington

Support for R-71 is strongest in urban, educated, college-centric parts of the state. In social terms, the vote split along the modernist-traditionalist fault lines. Yes, Seattle really is different.
Central Puget Sound voting patterns on R-71

Central Puget Sound voting patterns on R-71

How voters split on R-71, with blue-shift in favor and pink-shift opposed

How voters split on R-71, with blue-shift in favor and pink-shift opposed

If anyone were to doubt that there really are two Washingtons — that the Seattle metropolitan core (and its playgrounds) are another world from most rural to small-city Washington, and especially from east of the Cascade crest — a look at the vote on Referendum 71 should be persuasive.

These are not subtle, marginal differences, but indisputable polarization in what we might call the modernist-traditional divide. Referendum 71 passed by a 53 to 47 percent vote, revealing the power of the King County electorate, which alone provided a margin of 104,000 of the statewide margin of 113,000. It points again to what a statistical outlier Seattle is among cities, what I called in an earlier article, "Extreme Seattle."

To overcome the problem of variable size of precincts, and to suppress too-small numbers, I aggregated precincts to census tracts, which have the added advantage of permitting comparison of electoral results with social and economic data from the census.

Looking at the statewide map, one of the first things one notices is that about 85 percent of thegeographic territory of the state (95 percent in eastern Washington, 70 percent in western Washington) voted NO on R-71, a measure to expand domestic partner rights for same-sex couples. But that strong no vote was overwhelmingly rural and small town. The only core metropolitan census tracts that voted a majority no were in the Tri-Cities, Yakima, and Longview.

The heart of traditionalist, and arguably, of anti-gay sentiment,`is the farm country of eastern Washington, especially wheat and ranching areas in Adams, Douglas, Garfield, Lincoln, Walla Walla, and Whitman counties, but also the rich irrigated farmlands of Grant, Franklin, Benton, and Yakima counties. The highest no votes in western Washington were far rural Clark, exurban Chehalis, the Graham area south of Tacoma, and Lynden, home to many Dutch descendants and members of the conservative Christian Reformed Church.

Not surprisingly the census tracts in eastern Washington that supported Referendum 71 were the tracts dominated by Washington State University in Pullman, around Central Washington University in Ellensburg, the mountain resorts tracts in western Okanogan (Mazama, Twisp), in Skamania county, and a few tracts in the core of the city of Spokane.

Across western Washington majorities against Ref 71 prevailed over a sizeable contiguous southeastern area, from northern Clark and Skamania through urban as well as rural Lewis county (reinforcing that county’s contrary-to-Seattle reputation) and on northward into much of southeastern Pierce county; this region opposed R-71 by at least 58 percent. Still opposed, but less so were voters in much of the rest of rural small town western Washington, including most of rural Snohomish county.

The zones of strong support, over 60 percent, are essentially Seattle and its inner commuting zone; its spillover playgrounds and retirement areas of Port Townsend and the San Juans; college and university dominated tracts (around Western Washington in Bellingham, the Evergreen State College in Olympia); plus the downtown cores of Vancouver, Tacoma, and Everett. Weaker but still supportive were rural spillover, retirement, and resort tracts, often in coastal or mountain areas of Pacific, Grays Harbor, Jefferson, Clallam, Skagit, and Whatcom counties.

Looking next at the detailed map of central Puget Sound, we find contrasts between support and opposition are also starkly revealed. Support over 75 percent almost coincides with the city of Seattle (not quite so high in the far south end), and its professional-workforce commuting outliers of Bainbridge and Vashon, plus the downtown government core of Olympia and tracts around the University of Puget Sound and the UW Tacoma. Moderately high support (60-75 percent) surrounds the core areas of highest support, most dominantly in the more affluent and professional areas north of Seattle through Edmonds (and south Whidbey Island) and east to Redmond, Issaquah, and Sammamish. Weak but still positive votes occurred in the next tier of tracts, around Olympia, north and west of inner Tacoma, most of urban southwest Snohomish county and much of exurban and rural King county (quite unlike other rural areas of the state).


Like what you just read? Support high quality local journalism. Become a member of Crosscut today!

Comments:

Posted Fri, Dec 11, 9:09 a.m. Inappropriate

"If anyone were to doubt that there really are two Washingtons — that the Seattle metropolitan core (and its playgrounds) are another world from most rural to small-city Washington, and especially from east of the Cascade crest — a look at the vote on Referendum 71 should be persuasive."

But what about the (significantly different) map of voting results for I-1033, or, for that matter, for I-920 (estate tax repeal) in 2006? The polarization in Washington State around social issues may be growing more stark (though I doubt it -- consider for a moment what the R-71 map would have looked like if the vote were held 10 years ago), but I think there is evidence to be gleaned from the 1033 results that the state is actually becoming less divided on economic issues.

Posted Fri, Dec 11, 11:04 a.m. Inappropriate

"...consider for a moment what the R-71 map would have looked like if the vote were held 10 years ago..."

That's an interesting question to ask. I assume that the author is suggesting that the difference on R-71 between the two Washington would have been even greater. Is there data to suggest so? My guess is that ten years ago R-71 wouldn't have won anywhere in the state except a few parts of Seattle and the vote against would have been similar both east and west. No?

Posted Fri, Dec 11, 12:25 p.m. Inappropriate

It would be nice if the "click to enlarge" maps actually enlarged when you clicked them. It's awfully hard to make them out at postage stamp size.

dbreneman

Posted Fri, Dec 11, 1:04 p.m. Inappropriate

I live in the country- my zoning is one unit per 40 acres.
And I know farmers that are gay.

Being rural is not a way to avoid the exact same sexual preferences that urban people are born with, too.

Maybe in some rural areas, they deny it more, but I think it has much more to do with age, then with rural/urban divides.

Many of those eastern Washington Counties are net exporters of young people, while areas like mine actually are attracting under 30 "immigrants".
As older, more religious and conservative voters age out of the populace, opinions about gay rights, along with voting for black presidents, or getting tattooed, become non-issues.

Rniemi

Posted Fri, Dec 11, 2:30 p.m. Inappropriate

I think those same maps would be very interesting if redone as cartograms (so that the census tracks or counties were resized based on population). Viewed that way, in terms of demographics, Washington really consists only of Puget Sound, Spokane, the Tri Cities, and suburban Portland. Very few people live in the other parts of the state, proportionately, so I wonder if it's really valid to talk about "two" Washingtons at all. When we talk about "two" Washingtons, we are giving socially reactionary ("traditional") voters in nonurban areas a bit more sociopolitical importance than they really have. Increasingly their votes are like trees falling in the forest: do they make a sound?

smacgry

Posted Sat, Dec 12, 11:48 a.m. Inappropriate

In response to smacgry, I'd say that it's very easy to dismiss the opinions and beliefs of those you don't know (or whose lives you've never experienced) as ignorant or "reactionary" (wow, what a blast from the past that word is). I have virtually nothing in common with urbanites living in Seattle. I grew up in a lower middle income rural community on the Kitsap Peninsula. I disagree with a lot of the received wisdom of The Seattle Latteplex, but I would never suggest that a map be drawn indicating how much property each voter owned and thereby dismissing the opinions of those who own little or none. That would make no more sense than dismissing the votes of those who don't drink chlorinated water as smacgry seems to suggest. There is a lot of ignorance and prejudice in rural communities, but urban life brings its own forms of bigotry which are equally repellant. I'm glad Washington has a diversity of voters. I just wish it was skewed a little more towards libertarianism than liberalism.

dbreneman

Posted Sat, Dec 12, 10:15 p.m. Inappropriate

I've been thinking a lot about individual freedoms and responsibilities lately and what it means to have political opinions and express those opinions through voting. Voter's reactions to issues around gay rights tend to be characterized left or right, liberal or conservative. Liberals tend to support gay rights and conservatives oppose. But these rights are not really a matter of left or right politics. Sexual orientation or preference or interest or desire or whatever is a personal issue that falls, in my mind, in the realm of freedom of choice and within the most treasured, words in the Declaration of Independence justifying the American revolution: “We hold these truth to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, and that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." My point is that issues get lumped in one of two categories and real thought and consideration of issues is swept away by the categorization. The led me to wonder why the government has any responsibility over marriage or living arrangement that people choose as long as they are the private choice of citizens and guests of this nation. By the same token, people are free to engage in the religious sanction of marriage between and man and a woman if they wish privately without government approval. The same is true for other arrangements – importantly, as long as the individuals involve accept responsibility for their actions and people inside or outside of the arrangement are not harmed by the arrangement. This thinking does not fall within either of two great camps, red or blue.

PJHeide

Posted Sun, Dec 13, 8:29 p.m. Inappropriate

Thanks for all your comments. Yes, the results for 1033 would be a different division of the electorate. But sorry I dont yet have the precinct results for 1033 (or the Reg 71 results for Walla Walla.
True the results would have been negative 10 years ago, but not that different. maybe 8-10 percent, after all Washington is the only state where the electorate twice supported legal abortion.
The maps were probably jpeg which dont enlarge well, If anyone likes email me at morrill@u.washington.edu and I can send a pdf file which works better.
The cartogram point is well taken. Alternatively I have mapped the ref71 vote with graduated circlss proportional to population and colors to distinguish the percent for 71. This gives a sense of the distribution of population. Again email me for a copy. There are still two Washingtons, maybe not strictly the Cascade curtain, but maybe closer in to the metro core.
I do not think of the anti 71 folks as ignorant or reactionary, just having different values and heritage. I do hold to the position, both "liberal" and "libertarian" that government should not interfere with the living arrangment decisions of consenting adults.

DMorrill

Posted Mon, Dec 14, 10:41 a.m. Inappropriate

Dr. Morrill, I view the picture somewhat differently. Whatever the differences might be between Washington's urban and rural areas, the real take-home message is that voters in nearly every county have increased their propensity to vote pro-equlity. I come to this conclusion by comparing the by-county "approved" vote for R-71 and I-677. I've written this up here (http://pamshouseblend.com/diary/13979/all-of-washington-state-is-moving-towards-equality). I encourage you to click over to see the comparison bar chart, but here's a summary:

The last time Washington voters had the opportunity to ratify a pro-equality law at the polls was in 1997. Initiative to the People 677 proposed an employment non-discrimination law. The ballot title read "Shall discrimination based on sexual orientation be prohibited in employment, employment agency, and union membership practices, without requiring employee partner benefits or preferential treatment?."

I-677 was rejected 59.7% to 40.3%. Contrary to the current image of the Puget Sound area of Washington as progressive, not one single county - not even Seattle's home of King County - voted to approve I-677. Contrast that with the current election where the electorate as a whole approved R-71 and majorities in 10 of Washington's 39 counties have approved R-71. But the truly stunning statistic is that the rate of ballot measure approval increased between 1997 and 2009 in all but one county. (http://s195.photobucket.com/albums/z102/asclepias410/?action=view¤t;=667new.jpg)

Another mark of progress is the fact that voters in 21 counties approved R-71 by over 40%. Forty percent was the average statewide approval rate for I-677 in 1997. Those 21 counties are: Clallam, Clark, Cowlitz, Grays Harbor, Island, Jefferson, King, Kitsap, Kittitas, Klickitat, Mason, Pacific, Pierce, San Juan, Skagit, Skamania, Snohomish, Thurston, Wahkiakum, Whatcom, Whitman.

As you consider the graph, realize that in contrast to R-71, I-677 was rather narrow in scope. It dealt only with the employment discrimination of individuals. Voting yes on I-677 didn't ask voters to contemplate the meaning of family; didn't ask voters to recognize the existence of gay and lesbian parents; didn't ask voters to find the fiction in school-focused scare tactics. In other words, not only have Washington voters moved towards equality in virtually every county, they've shown by their R-71 vote that they're open to supporting equality much more comprehensively in the law. This is big.

One more thing: R-71 would have failed without Eastern Washington (http://pamshouseblend.com/diary/14334/referendum-71-would-have-failed-without-eastern-washington). The common refrain is that ten Puget Sound counties "decided for the state", population-dense King County in particular. It is true that voters in these counties played a vital roll in approving R-71, but they didn't couldn't swing the vote on their own.

R-71 was approved by a margin of 112,980 votes. Although there were 29 counties that rejected R-71 overall, those counties still produced 302,106 votes to approve. That's over 2.5 times the margin of victory. In other words, if equality voters in the so-called "reject" counties had recycled their ballots rather than vote, R-71 would have been rejected handily.

So, which counties were vital to the passage of R-71? Every single one. Or rather none. Because really all that matters is that ballots were cast, not which county the voter lives in. Every vote is equal in contributing to the total, and a significant number of that total came from outside the Puget trough. Every county tipped the balance for R-71.

Lurleen

Posted Wed, Dec 16, 2:29 p.m. Inappropriate

I don't think we are in much disagreement. Certainly people have moved toward support of equality. When I came to Seattle, we still had the Alien Land Law, by which Japanese could not own land. My wife and I were arrested for protesting totally separate real estate markets for whites and blacks. But 1997 is recent and I stand by my estimate of a ten percent change. That is large for such a short time. But if the vote had been on same sex marriage AS SUCH, this enlightened state would have defeated it. I'm sorry, the metro non metro and east west divides and polarization are still there. I used the wrong data. It was more extreme than I said. The margin in King county alone was 204000, overcoming the entire rest of the state easily.

DMorrill

Posted Thu, Dec 17, 9:40 a.m. Inappropriate

I agree that the difference in opinions and beliefs matter. And I agree that it's significant that King County voted so strongly when compared with particularly Eastern Washington counties. But the statement that Seattle or King County are "statistical outliers" only reinforces the idea that Washington is one (KC) versus many (every other county).

King County IS a statistical outlier, but that's when you measure population percentage. No other county comes close the volume of people. KC has almost 30% of Washington's people. If you start talking about Western Washington, or the Everett-Seattle-Tacoma (EST) metropolis, then you're talking about north of 50% of Washington's people.

To put it another way, EST taken alone defines the Christmas tree statistical model. Everything else is ornaments and presents.

Rob K

Posted Tue, Dec 22, 6:09 a.m. Inappropriate

I am wondering how voter turnout might effect the statistics? Only 50% of the voters statewide participated in this election according to state information. So is it safe to assume that the differences are regional or maybe the issue was more important to some regions than others?

You have certainly worked these numbers more than me, but it does make me wonder how to interpret voting statistics.

Herb

Posted Tue, Dec 22, 6:59 a.m. Inappropriate

Herb raises a very pertinent point about turnout. How did it vary across the counties?

An enterprising researcher might make that turnout data widely available, if only to give ample impetus for encouraging greater electoral participation rates among those outside of the gommorah of King County who may believe their state is being flushed down the proverbial rat-hole by the youthful new immigrants to Seattle and environs. Those forlorn folks must awaken to the ugly reality that has snuck up on them.

Posted Tue, Dec 22, 8:15 a.m. Inappropriate

I found a link to the data on the WA Secretary of State site which also had a statistical analysis here:

Eyman initiative and R-71: How we voted
by David Ammons | December 18th, 2009

http://blogs.sos.wa.gov/FromOurCorner/index.php/2009/12/eyman-initiative-and-r-71-how-we-voted/

The data are on this site:

http://wei.secstate.wa.gov/osos/en/PreviousElections/2009/GeneralElection/Pages/default.aspx

I wish I had the time to sort through these data or I wish someone would make some pretty graphics for the time challenged like me.

Herb

Login or register to add your voice to the conversation.

Join Crosscut now!
Subscribe to our Newsletter

Follow Us »