DHM Research

Voters are split on the current state of the Washington economy, and many are worried about their economic futures

DHM Research’s most recent statewide poll finds that many of Washingtonians’ top issues are related to the economy. While voters are split on how they feel about the current state of the economy, a plurality are not confident that it is going to improve in the near future.

48% rate Washington’s economic conditions as good, but only 18% think it is getting better.

Voters are split on the current state of the economy, and those with lower incomes and education feel most negative. Overall, 48% rate the economy as good while 49% say it is poor. Those making under $50k a year (42% good to 55% poor), those with only a high school diploma or GED (37% good to 55% poor), and those who live in an unaffordable housing situation (34% good to 64% poor) are most likely to rate the economic conditions as poor.

Slide showing "Voters are split on the state of the economy in Washington but believe it is not getting better."

While sentiment is split about today’s economy, a plurality feel that the economy is getting worse in Washington. When asked if economic conditions are getting better, staying about the same, or getting worse, 46% of Washingtonians say it is getting worse, 33% think it is staying about the same, and only 18% of respondents believe the economy is improving. The pessimism regarding the economy persists across demographic subgroups—in fact, no more than 31% of any demographic said the economy was improving. While there is no strong agreement on whether the economy is current doing well, trends suggest that most people think it is getting worse.

Voters remain concerned about their personal financial situations and see the impacts of inflation on their day-to-day lives.

One likely driver of forward-looking negativity regarding the economy is voters’ worry about their personal financial situations. The same middling-to-negative perception of the Washington economy is also present in how voters talk about their personal financial situations. 58% say they are worried about their personal financial situations. When looking at only those making under $50k a year, the number of those worried about their situation jumps to 73%, showing an increased impact on those who are economically vulnerable. Even among those making over $150k a year, 37% are worried about their personal financial situations. Those living outside the Puget Sound region (64%), people ages 18-44 (66%), and households with children (68%) are more likely to be worried as well. Perhaps most interestingly, among those who say their housing is affordable according to HUD calculations, 43% are still worried about their personal financial situation, showing the impact of other economic factors beyond housing affordability.

Slide showing "Voters are concerned about their personal financial situation, though there is variance across income levels."

While it has cooled slightly in the past month, Washingtonians are still feeling the impacts of inflation. 79% of respondents say inflation has impacted their day-to-day spending, while only 20% say they haven’t felt an impact. There is agreement across demographics here, with at least 70% of respondents in almost all demographic groups indicating they feel the impacts of inflation on their everyday spending. The outlier here is those with the highest incomes. Among those who make more than $150k a year, only 56% report that inflation impacts their day-to-day spending.

Moving to the job market, we see that voters still feel generally positive, but less so than they did a year ago—another trend that could be impacting negative perception about the future of the Washington economy. 54% say it is a good time to find a job, down from 72% in March of 2022. There are some groups who are particularly positive about the state of the job market, especially men (62%) and those ages 45-64 (59%).

A majority of Washingtonians said they would move to another state if their professional and personal situations allowed them to.

Respondents were then asked if the cost of living in Washington is worth the quality of life or if they would move to another state if their personal and professional situation allowed. 51% said they would move, while 39% said it was worth it to stay for the quality of life. Younger people ages 18-29 lean much more toward leaving at 64%, while those of retirement age seem more split, with 42% saying they would move and 44% saying they would stay.

Slide showing "Voters are split on whether the high cost of living would drive them out of the state."

Other groups who believe the high cost of living is worth it for the quality of life include Democrats (60%) and those who believe the state as a whole is going in the right direction (64%). Those more likely to be driven out by the high cost of living include those with children (55%) and those who rent their homes (65%). Interestingly, while there is some difference across economic groups, the lean of lower income respondents is not that far above the overall percentage who said they would leave the state (55% of those who make under $50k and 54% of those who make $50k-$100k).

Voters think the state should prioritize addressing the cost of living.

As the data about moving to another state indicates, cost of living is prevalent and can affect the larger decision to move out of state, in addition to daily expenses. Similarly, when asked what the highest priority should be for the Washington State Legislature to address, 13% said it should be inflation and the rising cost of living, and 11% said it was affordable housing. Affordability was second only to homelessness, for which 25% indicate it is their top issue they want the legislature to address. There is undoubtedly a connection between homelessness and housing affordability.

Data for this survey was collected in mid-April 2023 close to the end of the legislative session when most policy proposals were known. When asked directly if they think the legislature is doing enough to address the cost of living in Washington, 72% said no. This number is even higher among those who have lived in the state for less than 5 years (78%), Republicans (81%), and those in the Puget Sound region outside of King County (83%).

Slide showing "Voters believe that the high cost of living will harm Washington’s economic growth and want more to be done about it."

Respondents think the high cost of living in Washington is going to hinder the economy moving forward. 79% say the high cost of living will limit Washington’s growth over the next decade, and only 10% say it is needed for a strong economy. Some groups that are especially convinced that a high cost of living is not good for economic growth include households with children (83%), Republicans (88%), and those who think the economy is already doing poorly (90%).

These findings come from a DHM Research online survey of 500 Washingtonians conducted from April 13-18, 2023. Quotas were set by age, gender, area of the state, level of education, race, and voter registration to ensure a representative sample of Washington residents. The margin of error for this survey is ±4.4%.