Share story

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn pinned his re-election hopes this year in part on turning out younger voters who typically sit out off-year elections.

But in November Seattle’s voters — who
rejected McGinn but elected socialist Kshama Sawant to the City Council — skewed older than they did four years ago.

Just 11 percent of Seattle voters who participated in the Nov. 5 election were under 30, down from 13 percent in 2009.

And 32 percent of those who cast ballots were 60 or older, up from 27 percent four years ago, a Seattle Times analysis of voter registration data shows.

This week, save 90% on digital access.

John Wyble, a political consultant for McGinn, said, “We would have done a lot better with larger young turnout.”

But inertia ruled. As a group, younger voters were not motivated to mail in their ballots, despite an energetic get-out-the-vote effort by McGinn’s campaign.

Statewide voter turnout was 45 percent, the lowest in a decade. It was higher in King County — about 48 percent — and reached 53 percent in Seattle.

During the campaign, McGinn supporters attacked political polls a few weeks before Election Day that showed him losing by as much as 20 percentage points to then-state Sen. Ed Murray.

Some McGinn backers suggested the polls failed to count enough younger voters reachable only by cellphones.

But The Seattle Times analysis of vote returns suggests the polls didn’t vastly undersample young voters. A Survey USA poll for KING TV actually overestimated turnout among 18-to-34-year-olds by 10 percentage points.

Kevin Ingham, a pollster for Strategies 360, a lobbying firm whose poll had McGinn down 17 points a few weeks before the election, said political polls have to be viewed as a “snapshot in time.”

In the end, Murray garnered 51.5 percent of the votes to McGinn’s 47.5 percent.

Ingham said the evidence suggests undecided voters broke for McGinn in the final weeks of the mayoral race.

“The pollsters were actually quite good at predicting what Murray’s vote share was,” Ingham said. “His share didn’t increase or decrease. The narrowing was all coming from undecided voters going toward McGinn.”

Jim Brunner: 206-515-5628 or On Twitter @Jim_Brunner

Custom-curated news highlights, delivered weekday mornings.