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KING 5 News poll: Inslee leads, Culp gains support 3 weeks from election

If the election for governor were today, an exclusive KING 5 News poll found 54% of voters surveyed would vote for Jay Inslee and 40% would vote for Loren Culp.

Although gubernatorial challenger Loren Culp has gained ground in the race for governor, an exclusive KING 5 News poll shows Gov. Jay Inslee still holds a comfortable lead three weeks out from the general election.

If the election for governor were today, 54% of voters surveyed said they would vote for Inslee, a Democrat, and 40% said they would vote for Culp, a Republican. Another 6% were undecided.

If Culp were to win, he would be the state’s first Republican governor since John Dennis Spellman, who served from 1981-1985.

Support for Culp and Inslee predictably fell along party lines – 94% of Democrats picked Inslee, and 88% of Republicans favored Culp. However, there were also disparities among gender. About 62% of women said they would vote for Inslee, which was 30 points more than Culp. Among men, Culp edged Inslee by four points.

Culp, who is the police chief of Republic, performed better among eastern Washington voters, garnering support from 48% of those respondents, compared to Inslee, who earned 42% from voters in that region. Conversely, Inslee had more support in metro Seattle (59%) and western Washington (54%), compared to Culp (36% in metro Seattle and 42% in western Washington). 

Culp has gained support since polling was initially conducted five months ago, growing from 31% in May to 32% in July.

However, it appears only a small boost came from last week’s gubernatorial debate where Inslee and Culp faced off over coronavirus, climate change and racism. Of the surveyed debate viewers, just 3% of people who had planned to vote for Inslee will now vote for Culp. And just 2% of Culp supporters now back Inslee.

Overall, the vast majority of viewers – 86% – didn’t change their minds based on the debate.

Public opinion was also split on who won the debate. About 32% of debate viewers said Culp won, 29% said Inslee won, and 24% said there was no clear winner.

Inslee and Culp on economy, COVID-19

When asked who would better manage the economy and respond to the coronavirus pandemic, likely Washington voters picked Inslee.

About 54% of voters preferred Inslee for his COVID-19 response compared to 37% who preferred Culp. And 9% weren't sure.

Mask use has been one of the areas Inslee and Culp have diverged in their views on fighting coronavirus. Culp has held campaign rallies with thousands of unmasked supporters in attendance, going against Inslee's mask mandate. In the gubernatorial debate, Culp said he never spoke out against masks but disagreed with government orders to wear them.

RELATED: VERIFY: Does the face mask mandate violate the Washington state constitution?

On managing the economy, 51% said Inslee would do better compared to 39% who thought Culp would. Another 10% weren't sure.

It was the same story with social issues. About 51% of voters said Inslee's views on social issues better aligned with their own; 38% said Culp was better aligned, and 12% weren't sure.

The poll, which was conducted by SurveyUSA, surveyed 850 adults in Washington state from Oct. 8-12. Of those adults, 591 were likely November voters, and 290 watched the gubernatorial debate. Poll respondents were representative of statewide demographics with 36% identifying as a Democrat, 24% as Republican and 29% as Independent. Half were from the metro Seattle area, one-third were from western Washington and 17% were from eastern Washington.

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