Economy and homelessness are biggest issues for ‘pessimistic’ voters

While most Washingtonians feel good about the future for themselves and their households, a new Crosscut/Elway Poll finds fewer than half expect things to get better over the next year in their communities, the state, or the country.

The “voter outlook index”—which measures how people feel things will go during the next year—is the lowest it’s been since the summer of 2011.

The latest statewide survey was conducted in the last week of December 2021 among registered voters. Almost 60 percent of voters said things were looking up in their own households. But only 48 percent said the same for their communities, 47 percent for the state, and 43 percent for the country. All four measures are lower than they were a year ago.

It’s common for people to feel better about their own lives than how things look more broadly, said pollster Stuart Elway, who conducted the survey for Crosscut, a non-profit Pacific Northwest news site.

Perspectives on the future were split by political party, as were responses to most questions. Supermajorities of Democrats, and majorities of independents, said things will go well at every level. Supermajorities of Republicans said things are getting worse, Elway said.

Topping voter concerns were economic issues such as inflation, named by nearly one-third as the most important issue for the Legislature to tackle.

People are seemingly settling into life during the COVID era. As the pandemic entered its third year, 23 percent of voters said it was their top concern—down almost 30 points from the same time in 2021. More than three-quarters of respondents said they knew someone who had contracted COVID, up from 55 percent the previous year.

Fifty-two percent favored vaccine and mask mandates in public places, but the same number opposed forcing private businesses to place those mandates on employees. Democrats overwhelmingly agreed with both mandates, while Republicans overwhelmingly opposed both.

“The general takeaway from this survey is that voters are weary of the pandemic and wary of the economy,” said pollster Stuart Elway. “But they are deeply divided by party over what to do about either.”

Homelessness, which had dropped last year as the top concern of 13 percent of participants, rose back to 21 percent, placing it third among voter priorities.

“Getting a sense of what people in the state are concerned about, especially in an election year, is critical,” said Crosscut executive editor M. David Lee III. “These are some of the issues we need to continue covering. These are issues that journalism needs to hold people accountable on.”

Approval of job performance for Governor Jay Inslee, a Democrat in his third term, fell to its lowest point. Sixty percent said he was doing a fair or poor job; 39 percent rated him excellent or good.

Meanwhile, political party identification is closer than it’s been in four years. If party registration were required, 36 percent said they would register as a Democrat; 27 percent Independent; 29 percent Republican.

The poll was conducted Dec. 26-28, 2021 with 400 registered voters via phone or online