- Associated Press - Thursday, October 30, 2014

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) - A new poll released this week shows most Washington state voters support a ballot measure requiring universal background checks on gun sales and transfers, but that same survey suggests that undecided voters could swing the outcome of a rival gun initiative that would prevent any expansion beyond the national standard.

The KCTS 9 Washington Poll, released late Wednesday night, shows that about 61 percent of voters surveyed are certain or likely to vote for Initiative 594, which is seeking to expand the state’s current background check laws to include private transactions, including gun show sales and many loans and gifts. Another 3 percent are undecided but leaning toward voting yes. The poll found that 31 percent opposed that expansion, with 3 percent undecided.

When asked about Initiative 591, which prohibits a requirement beyond the national standard, 42 percent are certain or likely to support that measure - with another 4 percent undecided but leaning toward yes - while 43 percent oppose it, and 9 percent are undecided. The initiative also prohibits confiscation of firearms without due process.

Twenty-five percent of all respondents said they would vote yes on both measures, said University of Washington political science professor Matt Barreto, who helped put together the poll.

“I think it’s mostly driven by confusion,” Barreto said.

The telephone survey of land line and cellphone users started Oct. 17 and ended last Friday, and was conducted by Pacific Market Research in Renton, Washington. The poll sampled 602 registered voters, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.

Barreto noted that the survey polling dates wrapped up the same day as the deadly shooting at a Marysville high school. He said that he expects support for I-594 to increase even more because of that event, even though it might not be relevant to that particular tragedy. Authorities in that case have confirmed the gun was legally owned by one the teen shooter’s relatives; it’s not clear how he got it.

“After these sorts of shootings, there’s always an increase in public support for gun measures,” Barreto said.

The poll also found strong support for Initiative 1351, a measure seeking to limit class sizes for students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

More than 56 percent of voters surveyed said they were certain or likely to vote in favor of the measure, while an additional 4.3 percent were undecided but leaning toward voting yes. Nearly 30 percent were opposed to the measure, while another 2.7 were undecided but leaning toward no. More than 6 percent were undecided.

Barreto said that the sentiment lined up with voters’ feelings on other questions that asked about the need for the state to increase spending on education. The state Supreme Court held the Legislature in contempt in September for its lack of progress on fixing the way the state pays for public education.

In a January 2012 decision known as the McCleary case, the state Supreme Court ruled that Washington’s system of education funding is unconstitutional. It gave the Legislature until the 2017-18 school year to fix the problem detailed in a lawsuit by a coalition of teachers, parents, students and community groups.

“The McCleary decision has clearly started to percolate through the public and people want our public schools funded at the level the courts require,” he said.

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