An online survey conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner (GQR) found that 71 percent of likely Washington voters support rent control and good cause eviction protections.
"This consensus extends throughout the state, from progressive Seattle to the more conservative areas in the Northeast, involves both renters and homeowners and even captures a majority of self-ascribed Republicans," the poll memo reads. "The reason why this measure draws such a response is that the cost of housing is just too high. A 78 percent majority describe housing costs as a crisis or major problem."
The poll notes that concern about the cost of housing surprisingly wasn't highest in Seattle but in the state's northwestern and southwestern counties, which supported the measure at 66 and 69 percent, respectively.
The poll was commissioned by Washington CAN, an advocacy group that was "exploring" running a ballot initiative this year to limit rent increases statewide. The group was operating under the correct assumption that Democrats in the legislature wouldn't act on the issue last session, and hoped to press the case on the 2020 ballot. In a press release, WA CAN claimed the pandemic put the kibosh on their plans "this year," but urged politicians running for office to make "rent regulation and good-cause eviction cornerstones of their campaign." Judging by these poll numbers, that counsel seems wise.
But about these poll numbers: the pollsters are careful to note that their online survey is a "non-probability sample" and so is "not representative" of Washington.
Over the phone, GQR senior vice president Dave Walker explained that telephone polls theoretically could test everyone in the state, so they're considered probability-based samples and therefore "representative," though that assumes everyone has a landline. Online surveys, however, only test the 800-person sample of likely voters the pollster gathered, so they're only technically "representative" of that sample.
Walker said their sample group is drawn from a panel of people who agree to do surveys for money. Those people are not actively seeking out particular issues to respond to, they're recruited by pollsters to participate in randomly assigned surveys. The group is "constantly refreshed," Walker said, and they're "weighted on the backend so it looks like Washington is supposed to look like."
Walker argues that online research tends to underrepresent people of color and low-income households, but the same could be said for phone research. He admits these surveys "typically run a little more progressive," but argues that the data in this survey is pretty clear.
"It’s not close. It's an overwhelming level of support. Had we done a telephone survey, it’s likely it would be a little bit under [71 percent], but only a little bit," Walker said.
The poll also reflects anecdotal reporting showing the devastating effect of rent gouging across the state, from Edmonds to Wenatchee to Spokane. Though it might be an unpopular issue in the legislature for pretty obvious reasons, people from all over the political spectrum are clearly ready for relief from years of rent hikes.