Democratic U.S. Sen. Patty Murray holds an 8-point lead over Republican challenger Tiffany Smiley in a new poll commissioned by The Seattle Times and partners, a result that shows Smiley gaining 10 points since a similar poll taken in July.
The new WA Poll shows Murray, who is seeking a sixth term, at about the same level of support she had in both the July survey and in the August primary election. Murray is at 49% in the new poll, was at 51% in July and won 52% in the primary.
But the new poll shows substantial gains for Smiley, who seems to have consolidated conservative voters after advancing through the 18-person primary. Smiley is at 41% now, was at 33% in July and won 34% in the primary.
Smiley has also taken a 50% to 34% lead among voters who identify as independent. The July poll found a dead heat among independents, with 38% for each candidate.
The poll’s results show the state of the race as ballots are being mailed out throughout the state, ahead of the Nov. 8 general election.
Murray has held a lead in every public poll, but her lead in the polling average, as measured by FiveThirtyEight, has decreased from around 15 points in July to about 11 points now.
The results foreshadow what could be the closest U.S. Senate race in Washington since 2010, when Murray beat Republican Dino Rossi by less than 5 percentage points. Since then, Murray won reelection in 2016 and Sen. Maria Cantwell, also a Democrat, won in 2012 and 2018, each by margins greater than 16 points.
“The Smiley for Washington campaign is focused on one thing: connecting with the voters of Washington,” Smiley campaign spokesperson Elisa Carlson wrote in an email. “Their ‘poll’ is the only one that counts in this race, and it is the one Tiffany is determined to win.”
Murray is running on Democratic priorities like restoring and protecting abortion rights, voting rights and improving child care access. She touts recent Democratic achievements on infrastructure, veterans health care, climate investments and efforts to lower prescription prices. Smiley, a veterans advocate and former nurse, is offering herself as a fresh choice for voters disillusioned by Murray’s long tenure and worried about inflation, border security and crime.
Those areas of emphasis are mirrored in the poll results.
Murray leads by 58 points among voters who say abortion is their most important issue and by 53 points among voters who name climate change as most important. Smiley leads by 75 points among voters who say border security is the most important issue, by 45 points among those who listed crime first and by 28 among those who cite inflation first.
“I don’t ever take any election for granted. I am focused on building an economy that works for everyone — not just billionaires and giant corporations,” Murray said in a prepared statement. “My anti-abortion Republican opponent has shown time and again she will be a rubber stamp for Mitch McConnell.”
Murray’s overall lead continues to be fueled by strong support from female voters and big-city voters.
Murray holds a 20-point lead among female voters, while Smiley has a 6-point edge among male voters.
Murray leads by 32 points among urban voters, which are estimated at about a quarter of all voters. Smiley leads by 16 among rural voters, also estimated at about a quarter of voters.
Among suburban voters, who are estimated to make up half of all November voters, the split matches exactly the split of the overall electorate: Murray leads 49% to 41%.
The WA Poll is sponsored by The Seattle Times, KING 5, the University of Washington’s Center for an Informed Public and Washington State University’s Murrow College of Communication. It included responses from 589 likely voters, contacted by SurveyUSA between Oct. 14 and 19, and has a credibility interval of plus/minus 5 percentage points.
More poll results will be released in the coming days on subjects including the state of democracy, top issues for voters and whether Joe Biden and Donald Trump should run for office again.