Publicola has a new polling feature, PubliQuestion, and its first poll seems to carry some good news for Mayor Mike McGinn. At least among women voters, and overwhelmingly among voters under 35, the rookie mayor is doing fine.
Interpreting the results, Publicola co-founder Sandeep Kaushik concludes that while the media, particularly The Seattle Times, have been sharply critical of McGinn, most voters are not affected by all the bad headlines and quick reversals. Overall approval is 33-25%, with a large 45% unsure of what they think so far. Job-approval figures are 31-23 in his favor, not much to boast about and about the same as the much-maligned City Council, 33-26.
McGinn does best with Democrats, Independents, and women voters, and has the most problem with middle-aged voters (and of course Republicans). What's really startling is the job-approval rating for voters under 35: a lopsided 57-17. That compares dramatically with the 29-28 tally for the City Council for young voters. (Middle-aged folks like the council much more.)
What these figures confirm is the generational struggle going on in city politics (as well as in the media, with The Stranger now creating a second generation on the Web). The city has enjoyed a decade-long influx of new, green voters naturally drawn to McGinn's irreverent style, his bike, his tweaking of the establishment, and his boyish-adolescent manner. What outraged the civic and business community — McGinn's impudent letter to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer for having the "wrong view" on 520 — probably went down very differently for the young and defiant. And when the Times' Joni Balter calls McGinn "perhaps the most immature politician I have encountered," and offers tips on how to avoid dressing like "a schlump," in today's paper, I imagine his ratings among younger voters shoot up further.
Young voters would seem to be an unstable base for a politician, but Seattle is far from a typical city. Consider a few figures: Seattle household size is 2.08, compared to a national average of 2.61. Adults never married amount to 51% of Seattle's population, versus a national average of 30%. Seattle's non-family households (singles, unmarried partners) is 55%, compared to the U.S. figure of 33%. We are a city of young, single newcomers, not the middle-class, long-in-town population of Seattle's recent history. That's why McGinn has demographics on his side and Mayor Greg Nickels did not.
I gather that McGinn thinks of himself as a transitional figure in Seattle history, clearing the way for the New Seattle to take full command, even if McGinn himself is tossed out after four years. The question for the older order is whether to hope McGinn changes (unlikely), to wire around him by going to the city council (ungainly), or to find a few areas where they can work together (neighborhood retail revival, bike paths, parks, school reform) and hope for a Glorious Restoration in 2013 (plausible).
As for Publicola.net, very much a lively voice of these New Seattle voters, its advice to McGinn is simple: keep on truckin' and stay cool.