For the first time in eight years, the economy tops the list of issues Washington voters want to address from the legislature in 2022, overtaking homelessness and COVID-19 as the main statewide concern, according to a new Crosscut/Elway poll.
The new poll, released Thursday, asked an open question to 400 registered voters what topics state lawmakers should focus on when they hold a new session next week. Nearly a third of respondents – 32% – considered economic issues to be the most important for the legislature to address.
While the economy typically ranks high among voters’ list of priorities, in the past few polls across Crosscut/Elway, coronavirus and homelessness have been the top issues.
In January, 52% of survey respondents said the legislature should focus more on responding to the novel coronavirus. That number has fallen to 23% this year.
This year, only 21% of those surveyed cited homelessness as something the legislature should try to resolve, compared to nearly a third of survey respondents in 2020.
Education, the most important issue for voters from 2015 to 2018, was mentioned this year by only 8% of people surveyed.
Pollster Stuart Elway said the shift in voter priorities largely reflects how voter anxiety about the coronavirus is easing from levels seen a year ago. A similar number of voters last year said they were worried about the economy, he said, but many more at the time were very concerned about COVID-19.
“There is an old adage in the survey that the most important issue is either the economy or something else,” Elway said. “The economy hasn’t been at the top of the list since 2014, but it’s back.”
The Crosscut/Elway survey has a 5% margin of error at a 95% confidence level, which means that if the survey was taken 100 times, the results would be within 5 percentage points of the results reported here at least 95 times.
Those who described the economy as a major issue specifically mentioned inflation, employment rates and home prices as concerns.
Renee Townsend, who owns a small construction company in Skagit County, said her business has slowed due to a shortage of materials, as well as the increased cost of labor and materials needed to build homes. She said she has seen the prices of some bundles of timber four times higher than they were a year ago.
“Where we used to build an average of three homes a year, we end up with one a year, if we’re lucky,” said Townsend, 49, who was one of 400 people statewide who responded to the survey between December 26 and 28. .
“Although I have people who want to work, I can’t hire them because I can’t get the materials for a job,” Townsend said.
David Camp, a marketing consultant who lives in Spokane, said he doesn’t think the economy is doing terribly overall, but is concerned about housing affordability.
The 64-year-old Democrat believes that increasing housing density will help reduce high housing costs. To that end, he favors a proposal in the legislature that would allow duplexes to be used in all residential lots in cities with a population of 10,000 or more.
I think housing affordability goes hand in hand with density. Camp, one of the survey participants, said… The answer to affordable housing is very much more development. He also said he prefers denser buildings for environmental reasons.
The Crosscut/Elway poll found that voters were divided on the housing density measure, which would eliminate single-family zoning in medium- to large-sized cities and open the door to multi-family housing construction on all residential land in those cities. The majority of respondents (55%) said they were against the plan, while only 37% said they supported it.
Townsend, who is known for being politically independent but tends to vote Republican, said she’s not a fan.
“I live in the countryside and I want him to stay in the country,” she said. “Look at how crowded it is in Seattle—you can get to your neighbors house by sticking your arm out the window. You can touch the hands. I walked away from that.”
In the 60-day legislative session, which begins on Monday, lawmakers will also discuss a proposal to ban high-capacity magazines for guns. This proposal received greater support from respondents: 54% said they supported it, while 44% opposed it.
Overall, poll results suggest that voters are less attracted to Democratic leadership at the state level than they were two years ago.
In January 2020, 52% of poll respondents said they were likely to vote mostly for Democrats in state legislative races that year, while only 35% said they were likely to vote mostly for Republicans.
This year, only 42% of those surveyed said they were likely to vote mostly Democrats this fall, while 39% said they were likely to vote mostly Republican.
This is a big turnaround, Elway said, but it may not be as rosy news for Republicans as it may seem. In swing legislatures, this year’s poll showed Democrats still had a core advantage, he said.
Meanwhile, Democratic Governor Jay Inslee’s job approval rates are the lowest since he took office in January 2013.
Just 39% of respondents to surveys this year rated Inslee’s performance as “excellent” or “good,” while 60% said he was doing “only fair” or “poor.”
Elway said Inslee’s current approval ratings are “not significantly different” from those of his predecessors, Democratic governments. Chris Gregoire and Gary Locke greeted at the end of their second and final terms in office. Inslee is now in his third term as governor.
Elway said inflation rates and the ongoing pandemic are not helping Inslee win over voters right now.
“People don’t feel good about the economy. They’re sick of COVID, they’re sick of mandates — and they’ve been there all along,” Elway said. “So I think that’s a big part of it.”
The Crosscut/Elway poll polled voters across the state, with the number of respondents from each geographic area reflecting the state’s demographic distribution.
Voters were contacted by text messages and calls on mobile phones, in addition to calls made to landlines.