Poll: Seattle voters support hiring bonuses, incentives to attract more officers

Nearly 80% of respondents in the election season poll stated they lack confidence in the current council's approach to improving public safety

By Sara Jean Green
The Seattle Times

SEATTLE — With seven of nine positions on the Seattle City Council up for election in November, a new poll gauging the sentiments of likely voters shows homelessness and crime remain top concerns and that nearly 80% of respondents lack confidence in the current council's approach to improving public safety.

A majority of respondents think Seattle needs more police officers and that the city's Police Department needs more money to adequately address public safety, according to poll results released Wednesday. Respondents also overwhelmingly support signing bonuses and other incentives to attract new cops, as well as the creation of a public-safety force staffed with unarmed officers to respond to nonviolent incidents and lower-priority 911 calls.

Seattle-based EMC Research conducted the public-safety poll over six days in January on behalf of the Downtown Seattle Association and Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce. Using a hybrid model that included phone interviews and online surveys, the poll of 500 likely voters has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.

The poll confirmed likely voters think public safety is critical to revitalizing downtown and neighborhood business districts — and that safety needs to be a top priority for elected officials, said Jon Scholes, president of the Downtown Seattle Association.

"For those who are running for local office — or thinking of running — it's pretty clear that voters are calling for a focused approach and urgent action on public safety," Scholes said in a statement.

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Four current council members — Kshama Sawant, Lisa Herbold, Alex Pedersen and council President Debora Juarez — have announced they won't seek reelection this year. Three others — Andrew Lewis, Dan Strauss and Tammy Morales — said they will run again in November. The council members' current terms expire Dec. 31.

Candidates for the seven council seats have until May 19 to declare their candidacy; the primary election will be Aug. 1 and the general election Nov. 7.

The mayoral and two citywide council seats will be up for election in 2025.

The City Council turnover has been partially attributed to the political climate in Seattle, where the perennial issues of building more affordable housing and addressing growing public-safety concerns are among those that have made council members targets of harassment and doxxing.

Mayor Bruce Harrell "continues to be popular even in this overall negative environment," scoring a 67% favorable rating, according to the poll results.

Sixty-two percent of respondents likewise had favorable opinions of Seattle police officers, though just over half expressed similar sentiments about the Seattle Police Department overall.

Poll respondents were split 51% to 45% over whether SPD has made significant progress on police reform. Asked whether they feel more or less safe in their neighborhoods compared with two years ago, 8% of participants reported feeling more safe, 33% felt about the same and 57% said they felt less safe.

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Only 20% of respondents said they felt confident or somewhat confident in the City Council's approach to public safety, while 79% said they lacked confidence. Thirty-seven percent said they weren't at all confident in the council's approach.

Slightly more than half of respondents cited the effects of homelessness as their top safety concern, with crime a primary issue for 23% of respondents and drugs also a concern for 19%. Seventy percent of respondents think Seattle needs more police officers, the poll found.

Poll results show likely voters support police reform, alternatives to traditional policing and hiring more officers, said Rachel Smith, president of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce.

"With the most City Council positions open [than] we have seen in 20 years, we urge those who have already filed to make their positions on public safety clear to voters," Smith said in a statement.

To read the poll results, visit st.news/safetypoll.

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