Politics & Government

KCTS-Washington Poll: Gun background checks, school funding both passing

An independent statewide poll shows Washington voters backing passage of initiatives that would expand background checks for virtually all gun sales and also directs lawmakers to allocate money to reduce student-to-teacher ratios in K-12 education.

The KCTS-Washington Poll, a joint program by public television station KCTS-9 and researchers at the University of Washington, was released late Wednesday. Tuesday is Election Day, the deadline for returning ballots in the state’s all-mail election.

“Overall, the poll finds very strong support for Initiative 594 regarding background checks for gun purchases and very strong support for Initiative 1351, which would require fewer students per classroom,” poll co-author Matt Barreto said in an email. “Both initiatives have broad support statewide and appear on their way to being passed.”

A rival gun rights measure, Initiative 591, is getting a plurality of voters’ support to bar any expansion of background checks unless there is a new national standard. But less than half of voters said they would vote for it, suggesting its fate is less clear.

The poll was taken during Oct. 17-24, roughly the first week ballots were out. It interviewed 602 voters and had a margin of error of 4 percent.

The poll shows I-594 winning 64 percent to 31 percent. On the yes side, that includes 52 percent who said they were certain to vote in favor, another 9.1 percent who said they were in favor but could change their vote, and another 2.9 percent who were leaning yes. Among opponents, 25.9 percent were certain to vote no, 2 percent were opposed but could change their vote, and 2.9 percent were leaning no.

I-591 was leading by a 45 percent to 43 percent margin including those voters who were leaning.

I-1351 was up by a 61 percent to 32 percent margin including leaning voters. The measure requires class-size improvements and doesn’t provide any new money to accomplish it.

The top general issues on voters’ minds were education reform or funding, gun laws, fixing the economy, taxes and health reform, or Obamacare.

But concerns were diffuse, with education cited by 23.7 percent, gun laws by 21 percent and the economy by 12.3 percent. Registering in single digits were taxes, budget deficits or public debt, transportation, climate change and the environment, illegal immigration, foreign affairs concerns such as Syria or the Islamic State group, national security, gasoline prices, women’s rights including reproductive rights, and Wall Street-related concerns about banking and finance.

Inslee, in his second year of office, was seen as very or somewhat favorable terms by nearly 54 percent of voters with about 29 percent unfavorable. The latter is in contrast to an Elway Poll in July that had 43 percent seeing him favorably and 50 percent negatively.

The divided Legislature received a 38.4 percent favorable rating, slightly eclipsed by its 38.8 percent unfavorable rating. Notably, 6.5 percent claimed they had “never heard of” the legislative body.

The state’s two Democratic U.S. senators, Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, are not on the fall ballot but both enjoyed favorability ratings over 50 percent.

By a margin of 41 percent to 35 percent, Democrats were seen as more trusted to make “the right decisions” and improve the economy than Republicans, according to the poll.

A question on the state’s expected $1 billion to $3 billion budget shortfall found 29.3 percent supported closing it with equal cuts and tax increases. Another 22.7 percent favored only cuts, 22.5 percent favored “mostly with spending cuts,” 12.3 percent favored “mostly with tax increases,” and 5.6 percent favored only with tax increases.

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