Did the Seattle City Council race between incumbent Richard Conlin and challenger Kshama Sawant reveal a deep fissure between rich and poor in Seattle?
Looking at a map of the election results, it certainly seems to tell a “Tale of Two Cities,” as The Stranger called it. Conlin, considered the establishment candidate, handily won nearly all the well-heeled waterfront neighborhoods, while the socialist Sawant ran strong in Seattle’s less-wealthy interior.
But just how close was this correlation between election results and the wealth gap?
Ref. 74 map: One of these things is not like the other…
Everyone knows by now that same-sex marriage in Washington state was affirmed by popular vote — but the vote was a lot more popular in some parts of the state than others. Most Puget Sound counties voted in favor of gay marriage, while the rest of the state voted against it. The geographic divide is abundantly clear on the Washington Secretary of State’s Ref. 74 results map.
And yet, there’s something funny about this map. Way over on the eastern edge of the state, amid a vast sea of yellow rejection, a lone patch of green approval stands out. What is that place?
Meet Whitman County.
So why there? Ref. 74 went down in flames in the rest of Eastern Washington. What’s different about Whitman County?
Seattle during Gay Pride, 2006 (photo by Lsc2seattle via Wikimedia Commons)
The battle is heating up over Referendum 74, which will ask voters to decide if the new law allowing same-sex marriage in Washington should be upheld. The people who will be most immediately affected by the outcome of this vote, naturally, are gay men and lesbians.
So just how many people would that be here in Washington and in Seattle?
It would be nice if there were good, solid data to answer that question, but there really aren’t. The Census Bureau doesn’t ask about sexual orientation directly. There are some surveys of the gay population, but the best they can do is approximate an overall figure for the country, not for individual states, counties and cities.
However, there is a relevant question that the Census Bureau does ask, and it at least hints at an answer.
Since 1990, the Census has asked Americans if they are in a same-sex partner household. Theoretically, we can assume that there is a correlation between the percentage of same-sex partner households and the overall gay population of a particular place; in other words, the more gay couples, the more gay people.
A think tank based at UCLA, the Williams Institute, crunched the Census data to derive the percent of same-sex couples in states, counties, cities and towns across the nation.
So what do we learn from the Census about the current state of gay Washington?