Community Safety Top Concern of Seattle Voters Ahead of Historic City Council Election 

May 1, 2023.

New Downtown Seattle Association/Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce research points toward public call for more officers and holistic approach to public safety 

The Downtown Seattle Association and Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce recently released voter research conducted by EMC Research, capturing voter sentiment regarding public safety in Seattle. The January survey of likely November 2023 voters posed a series of questions about safety in their neighborhoods, top safety concerns, Seattle police funding and staffing, unarmed alternative response, and confidence in elected officials on the issue of safety.

Voter sentiment clearly demonstrates a complete approach to public safety is desired in Seattle, with respondents calling for proper staffing levels to meet response times, police reforms and responsible alternative responses.

Survey findings include:

  • Voters are less likely to support candidates who supported a recent city action to eliminate 80 unfilled and unfunded police positions, regardless of the decision being framed as “defunding the police” (60%) or “being fiscally responsible.” (49%)
  • A strong majority of voters (70%) believe we need more officers to keep us safe and reduce crime, and that things like signing bonuses will help (66%), while they are evenly split on whether the department has made progress on reforms (51%-45%). More than six in 10 voters (62%) view Seattle police favorably.
  • In an open-ended question, a little more than half of voters (52%) cited homelessness and/or lack of available housing as their top safety concern. 
  • Eight in 10 voters (80%) support the idea of a public safety force with unarmed officers to respond to low-priority calls.

Seven of the nine Seattle City Council positions are up for re-election on the November 2023  ballot. DSA and the Seattle Metro Chamber conduct research exploring voter sentiment and advocate on behalf of their members.

“We’ve heard from our members — people who visit, live and work downtown — that safety is their number-one priority,” said DSA President & CEO Jon Scholes. “This survey confirmed  that voters are largely aligned. They think community safety is critical to revitalizing downtown and neighborhood business districts, that it needs to be a top priority for elected officials and that law enforcement should be able to respond in a timely but also appropriate manner. 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.”

“It has been our position – and the research shows that the voters share it – that an all-of-the-above approach to public safety is needed: reforms, alternatives, and the right number of officers to meet response times,” said Rachel Smith, president and CEO of the Seattle Metro Chamber. “With the most city council positions open that we have seen in 20 years, we urge those who have already filed to make their positions on public safety clear to the voters. And as leaders of civic organizations, we encourage people to run for office – especially if they share the opinions of the voters.”

Four of the current nine Seattle City Councilmembers are not seeking re-election this year. Candidates for Seattle City Council must file a Declaration of Candidacy with King County Elections by Friday, May 19, 2023. The primary election is Tuesday, Aug. 1 and the general election is Tuesday, Nov. 7.