SEATTLE - Undecided voters could be the deciding factor in the governor's race in Washington state, where a new poll shows a close match between Democrat Jay Inslee and Republican Rob McKenna in the campaign's final days.
A KCTS 9 Washington poll released Thursday showed Inslee with a lead of 47.2 percent to 45.5 percent among registered voters, with 7.4 percent undecided. Among likely voters, Inslee holds an advantage of 48.7 percent to 45.6 percent over McKenna, with 5.8 percent undecided. In both camps, the numbers are within the margin of error.
Because the race is so close, poll director Matt Barreto said those undecided voters will be crucial.
"Those are the ones who will decide the outcome," he said.
The telephone survey of land line and cellphone users started Oct. 18 and ended Wednesday, and was conducted by the University of Washington. It sampled 722 registered voters, of which 632 were considered likely voters. It had a margin of error of 3.6 percent for registered voters and 3.9 percent for likely voters.
The poll found voters support ballot measures in favor of gay marriage, legalizing marijuana, approving charter schools and limiting taxes. It's the second KCTS 9 Washington poll released this month.
Referendum 74 asks voters to either approve or reject a gay marriage law that was passed by the Legislature earlier this year. That law is on hold pending Tuesday's election. The poll showed 57.3 percent of registered voters would vote to uphold the law, compared with 36.2 percent who oppose it and 6 percent undecided. Among likely voters, support remained about the same, at 57.9 percent, with 36.9 percent saying they would vote against the measure, and 4.8 percent undecided.
As in a poll released by KCTS 9 earlier this month, the poll on R-74 also included a third prediction, based on whether people answered honestly. Barreto said results can sometimes be skewed because people answering poll questions feel social pressure to answer a certain way. This poll was weighted based on how people answered two additional questions: if they lied on the survey, and if any topics made them uncomfortable. That third prediction reduced the number supporting the referendum to 52.3 percent, and those opposing 45.8 percent.
Barreto said social issues are the "absolute hardest things to poll on."
"It's hard to convince someone, when it's a stranger, to give you their full, honest opinion," he said.
On Initiative 502, which would legalize possession of up to an ounce of marijuana under state law for those over 21, 55.8 percent of those asked said they would vote yes, compared with 36.7 percent who would vote no, and 6.9 percent undecided. Among likely voters, support was about the same, at 55.4 percent, with 6.8 percent undecided.
For Initiative 1185, which asks voters to renew the restriction of a two-thirds legislative majority on any new tax, support for the measure was at 53 percent among registered voters, with 34.2 percent opposed and 11.8 percent undecided. Support among likely voters dropped slightly to 52 percent, with 36.8 percent opposed and 10.5 percent undecided.
About 55.3 percent of registered voters said they support Initiative 1240, which would create a public charter school system in Washington. That compares with 36.4 percent who were opposed and 7 percent undecided. Among the likely voter group, support increased to 55.5 percent, compared with 37.5 percent opposed and 5.9 percent undecided. The measure is opposed by the Washington Education Association, the state's largest teacher's union.
The poll also showed strong support for President Barack Obama in Washington state, with 56.4 percent saying they support him and only 35.9 percent saying they back Republican Mitt Romney. That margin didn't change much among the likely voter group, with Obama holding a 57.1 percent to 36.4 percent advantage.
U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell also leads her Republican challenger, state Sen. Michael Baumgartner, 59.4 percent to 31.6 percent. Among likely voters, her margin of support remains about the same, 60.8 percent to 33.3 percent.