OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Washington’s leading candidates for governor are running about even, as Republican Rob McKenna is showing more strength in the state than his party’s presidential nominee, according to a new poll released Wednesday.

A survey of likely voters by Strategies 360, a Seattle public affairs and consulting firm, found McKenna getting 43 percent of support compared to 39 percent for Democrat Jay Inslee, but that’s within the poll’s margin of error of 4.4 percent. The poll found that McKenna has higher favorability ratings, with 37 percent saying they have a positive opinion of him and 29 percent saying they have a favorable opinion of Inslee.

McKenna fared better than his party’s nominee at the presidential level. Fifty-four percent of respondents had a favorable opinion of President Barack Obama while only 39 percent had a positive view of Republican Mitt Romney. In a head-to-head matchup, Obama beats Romney 51-40 in the state, according to the poll’s results.

The survey of 500 likely voters was conducted last week.

There are also other positive signs for McKenna in the poll.

More than half of respondents said they support public charter schools while only 25 percent opposed them. In one of the campaign season’s major policy divisions, McKenna has proposed that the state begin using charter schools while Inslee has opposed them.

Fifty-eight percent of respondents said the U.S. Supreme Court should overturn either all of Obama’s health care law or overturn just the mandate requiring people to buy health insurance. McKenna has signed on to the lawsuit challenging the law, and Democrats have seized on that issue to criticize him.

The poll also showed that 54 percent of voters think it should be legal for same-sex couples to get married, though the poll doesn’t specifically ask them how they’ll vote on Referendum 74, a measure seeking to overturn the law passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Chris Gregoire earlier this year.

Opponents of the new law legalizing gay marriage have been collecting signatures in advance of a June 6 deadline, and are expected to have the required 120,577 valid voter signatures to qualify for the ballot. If they don’t, the measure takes effect June 7. If they do, the law is put on hold until the November election.

On the issue of legalizing marijuana, voters are split at 43 percent, with 9 percent needing to know more information and 4 percent not expressing an opinion. Initiative 502, which would legalize and tax sales of marijuana to adults 21 and over, will be on the November ballot. In September, a Strategies 360 found voters were equally split, at 46 percent for and 46 percent against legalization.

The initiative would create a system of state-licensed growers, processors and stores, and impose a 25 percent excise tax at each stage. Those 21 and over could buy up to an ounce of dried marijuana; one pound of marijuana-infused product in solid form, such as brownies; or 72 ounces of marijuana-infused liquids.

— Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. AP Writer Rachel La Corte contributed to this report.


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