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?
Seattle City Councilmember Nick Licata speaking at Hempfest, 2009 (Photo: Ekaune via Wikimedia Commons)
Washington has a long-standing reputation for being one of the more pot-friendly places in the country. We even play host to the world’s largest pot rally, Hempfest, every year. But still, did anyone expect our trailblazing I-502 to pass with such ease at the polls?
Taking all that into consideration, nobody could blame you for thinking that Washington was among the handful of states where marijuana use is most prevalent. But actually, Washington just misses the top-10 list. The National Surveys on Drug Use and Health found that in 2009-2010, 8.86 percent of Washingtonians aged 12 and up had used marijuana in the past month. With the District of Columbia included in this survey, Washington only comes in 11th place. The other state that legalized recreational pot use, Colorado, ranks third.
Here are the top-ranked states, along with their percentage of the population who consume cannabis. As you can see, usage in Washington is significantly lower than the states at the top of the list; and you might say this ranking gives new meaning to the term “baked Alaska”:
With Washington voters approving legal, recreational pot and gay marriage almost certain to be declared a winner later today, Washington could be looking more like the Netherlands than any other U.S. state.
If we really are “going Dutch,” might as well brush upon some facts about about the Netherlands. So here is a basic demographics and economic comparison:
Now that Washington is on a mail-in ballot system, none of us will be driving to the polls tomorrow. But that doesn’t mean we can’t vote with our cars. In fact, we kind of do already.
Washington State Republicans and Democrats have strong preferences when it comes to their choice of cars, just as they do with their choice of candidates. This really isn’t surprising, because the cars we drive can say a lot about who we are. Think about it: when you see someone behind the wheel of a Hummer or a hybrid, you probably make certain assumptions about the driver.
Now I’m not suggesting that car choice is a predictor of a person’s politics. But the data show that certain cars do in fact have a stronger appeal to either Republicans or Democrats. And on the eve of this high-stakes election, with passions and anxieties running high, I thought it would be a fun diversion to take a look at what Republicans and Democrats like to drive most.
Now wine does not carry the same political significance as beer. You’d never hear anybody ask: “Which presidential candidate would you rather sit down to a glass of wine with?” As popular as wine has become across the country, I suppose it still doesn’t seem quite as American as beer.
But this is Washington State, one of the nation’s premium wine regions. We produce great wines here, and we also enjoy drinking them. Data from market research firm Scarborough show that 61 percent of folks in the Seattle metro area consider themselves wine drinkers. So, with that in mind, I dove into the local data for wine and politics in anticipation of the final presidential debate.
A couple weeks ago, the National Journal looked at which beers American voters prefer — Democrats vs. Republicans. Heineken was a top “blue” choice, whereas “red” voters would rather reach for a Sam Adams. That was at the national level, though, and as the saying goes, all politics is local — and so is beer preference.
Here in Puget Sound, even if Republicans and Democrats can’t agree on much, they both like their beer in equal measure; survey data show that 44 percent of both “red” and “blue” likely voters in our metro area have enjoyed a cold brew in the past month.
But not surprisingly, that’s where the agreement ends. Just like on the national level, voters in this region have very different taste in beers depending on their political leanings. I used market data from Scarborough Research to create a local “beer index” for both “red” and “blue” voters.
Republican Street in Seattle. (Photo by Gene Balk/The Seattle Times)
In The Seattle Times, Brian M. Rosenthal reports on the nuanced political views of ”millennials” — America’s under-30 generation. National survey data show that these young adults are largely liberal, but nevertheless have conservative views on certain issues.
What about millennials here in King County? Are their politics typical of their generation? King County’s population is well-known for being more Democratic than most of the country — are our millennials following suit? Looking for answers, I turned to data from surveys conducted here and around the nation in 2011 and 2012 by Scarborough Research.
The survey data indicate that millennials in King County, just like millennials across the country, are more “blue” than they are “red.” No surprise there. But delving a little deeper into the data, things get more interesting.
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?