Washington governor’s race will be a close one, poll finds

A recent Crosscut/Elway poll found 37% of voters would consider Democrat Bob Ferguson for the 2024 election while 31% would not.

A man filling out his ballot in a Yakima voting booth

Washington state voters will be electing a new governor in 2024. (Amanda Snyder/Crosscut)

The 2024 election is nearly a year away, but some Washington voters have already made up their minds about who they will – or will not – vote for in the governor’s race.

A new Crosscut/Elway poll found 37% of voters would or could choose Democrat Bob Ferguson, Washington’s attorney general since 2013, as their next governor if the election was held now. Another 31%, however, said they would not consider voting for him in the fall. The poll revealed just the opposite about Republican frontrunner Dave Reichert, with 31% saying they would or could vote for the former congressman and King County sheriff and 38% saying Reichert will not be their choice.

Pollster Stuart Elway chose this unusual way to assess public sentiment – as opposed to a simple racehorse approach – “because it shows how fluid the race is at this moment and how far the candidates have to go before November.”

The poll tells us more than just whether voters prefer one candidate over another. For example, only half the respondents (50%) were familiar with more than one candidate, and only 52% named even one of the candidates they “could vote for,” Elway said. Only 24% already had a candidate they intended to vote for, while 71% named at least one they “will not vote for.”

For Ferguson, 12% said they would vote for him, while another 25% said they “could” vote for the Democrat, which is more nuanced than forcing respondents to make a choice a year before they officially cast their ballots. The numbers for Reichert showed 10% had made up their mind to vote for the Republican, while 21% said they “could” vote for him.

This approach gives us a bit more insight into how the race for governor might unfold over the next year, but so much could happen between now and November to potentially change people’s minds. Elway said all these numbers – and the details we pulled from poll participants – tell him the governor’s race is going to be a close one.

“Both candidates have some work to do to solidify their standing in their own parties,” Elway added. People who answered the poll indicated their final choice would be based most heavily on the following factors: ideology, personal qualities, and the candidate’s ideas about homelessness, the economy, taxes, crime and the environment. 

The pollster said he disagrees with conventional wisdom among many political wonks that Ferguson is going to have an easy path to victory. “Ferguson is going to have much more of a race,” Elway said. The crosstabs from this poll, a more nuanced look at the results, will give them – and everyone else – more insight.

The poll also asked about two other people in the governor’s race. About 3% of Washington voters say they intend to vote for Republican Semi Bird, and another 14% said they could vote for him. About 36% said they would not vote for the former Richland School Board member.

For Democrat Mark Mullet, the numbers are: 2% intending to vote for the state senator, 21% who could vote for him and 24% who would not vote for the moderate Democrat and businessman from Issaquah. More than 30% of voters polled indicated neither Bird nor Mullet were familiar to them. All four candidates had a significant number of people who had no opinion about them or didn’t even know who they were.

The survey, conducted right after Christmas, also found a variety of opinions on which party should control the state government. The poll found 22% think it’s important and 17% think it would be better for Democrats to maintain control. Another 18% think it’s important and 10% think it would be better for Republicans to take over. And 25% favored a divided government.

The poll was conducted between Dec. 26 and 28, with a mix of cell phone, landline, and online survey questions. It has a 5% margin of error at the 95% confidence level. That means that if the survey had been run 100 times, the results would be within five percentage points of these results in at least 95 of those scenarios.

Not surprisingly, the results fell along party lines – Democrats had a 11-point edge –  with most independents favoring divided control of state government. Voters’ plans for who they were going to choose to represent them in the Legislature also fell mostly along party lines, but people who identify themselves as independents said they were more likely to vote for Republicans for the Legislature than for Democrats, although many were still undecided.

The survey also checked in on approval ratings for current Gov. Jay Inslee, who is beginning the final year of his third term and not running for a fourth. Elway says Inslee has had mediocre approval ratings throughout his time in office but got good reviews at the ballot box, being reelected twice.

In this poll, more than 56% of voters rated his service as “only fair” or “poor,” while 40% said his performance was “good” or “excellent.” Crosscut/Elway polls have graded Inslee more negatively than positively throughout his time in office, except for one poll in January 2019.

Elway notes, however, that Inslee has more positive reviews and lower negative grades than his predecessors, Christine Gregoire, Gary Locke and Mike Lowry, also Democrats. 

Get the latest in election news

In the weeks leading up to each election (and occasionally during the legislative session), Crosscut's Election newsletter will provide you with everything you need to know about races, candidates and policy in WA state.

By subscribing, you agree to receive occasional membership emails from Crosscut/Cascade Public Media.

Please support independent local news for all.

We rely on donations from readers like you to sustain Crosscut's in-depth reporting on issues critical to the PNW.


About the Authors & Contributors