You might have thought there’s no way the Seattle area could get any more liberal than it already is. But according to new data, it appears that’s precisely what’s happened.
Twice a year, market-research firm Nielsen surveys hundreds of thousands of adults across the country about their political-party affiliation. The two surveys released in 2019 for the Seattle-Bellevue-Everett metropolitan division (King and Snohomish counties) show identification with the Democratic Party is at its highest point in the past 10 years.
In both recent surveys, 52% of adults in our area (a projected 1.25 million people) said that they are Democrats or that they lean Democratic. And keep in mind, that’s the percentage of the entire population age 18 and up, not just registered voters.
Most of the Nielsen surveys since 2010 have shown Democrats and Democratic-leaning adults around 48% to 49% of the total for our area. But since 2017, the numbers have been trending up overall.
Why has it happened?
As everyone knows, we’ve had a massive influx of new arrivals since 2010. It’s possible that an even higher percentage of them are liberal than the folks who already lived here. Anecdotally, a lot of people who’ve moved to the Seattle area from more conservative parts of the county say one of the things that drew them here is our progressive politics.
With the increase in the share of our population that is politically liberal, Seattle now ranks among a small number of metro areas where the majority of the adult population are Democrats or Democratic-leaning. Among the 100 most-populous metropolitan areas and metropolitan divisions included in the survey, we’re one of 11 in the most recent survey data.
Seattle ranks as the ninth most-liberal metro. No. 1, unsurprisingly, is San Francisco, where 65% of adults are Democrats or lean Democratic. All of the Top 10 bluest metros are in the Northeast or on the West Coast, with one exception: Durham/Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
King County alone would rank higher, but Snohomish drags down our area’s liberal bragging rights a bit. In King, 55% of adults are Democrats or Democratic leaning, compared with 44% in less-populous Snohomish. (In case you’re wondering, that number drops to 39% in Pierce County).
Republicans, or folks who lean Republican, number about 570,000 in our two-county area. That’s a little less than a quarter of the adult population. There are also 225,000 independents who don’t lean either blue or red, making up about 9% of the total. An additional 335,000 people in our area have a different political affiliation, or no affiliation at all. Most of these are folks not registered to vote, either by choice or because they are ineligible.
The most conservative metro area among the 100 largest is Ogden, Utah, where 59% of adults are Republican or lean Republican. The area with the highest percentage of independent voters who don’t lean either right or left is Worcester, Massachusetts, at 24%.
The demographic data, broken down by party affiliation, shows that Democrats in the Seattle area have a median household income of $80,700. They are less affluent than Republicans ($87,600) or independents ($87,500) here. A much higher percentage of Democrats and independents are renters (more than 40%) — a little more than a quarter of area Republicans rent.
Democrats and independents here tend to be more educated, with nearly half having a college degree. For Republicans, 37% have a college degree.
Among Seattle-area Democrats, women make up the majority (52%), which is not true for either Republicans or independents. Democrats here are also more racially diverse, with 28% being people of color.
Republicans are easily the oldest group, with a median age of 53. For Democrats, it’s 46 and for independents, 42.
In its most recent release, Nielsen surveyed nearly 4,000 adults in King and Snohomish counties from August 2018 to August 2019. Nationally, more than 200,000 adults were surveyed.
Correction: An earlier version of this column mistated the median household income and renter figures.