Governor's race tight as election nears

Undecided voters likely key as Inslee holds slight edge

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OLYMPIA — 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 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.