Editor's Note

Billionaire vs. Billionaire

Gates versus Bezos: Seattleites trust one more than the other.

By James Ross Gardner February 20, 2017 Published in the March 2017 issue of Seattle Met

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Image: Mike Holm

There’s a lot to take away from this month’s cover story, the results of our first-of-its-kind poll of Seattleites, which measures attitudes on everything from politics to parenting. Our reputation, for instance, as a fiercely secular enclave holds true: A quarter of us cite no religion. But to my surprise, about 45 percent of you out there won’t say that legalizing recreational marijuana was a good thing, despite Initiative 502 passing in 2012 by nearly 56 percent statewide.

The poll result I can’t stop thinking about, though, has to do with our two most high-profile rich dudes. In one corner: world’s richest person and Dockers model Bill Gates. In the other: drone enthusiast and legendary loud laugher Jeff Bezos. 

When asked which of these men—the founder of Microsoft and the founder of Amazon, respectively—Seattleites would most trust to run the city, you rooted for Gates by a whopping 58.4 percent. Now of course he’s got the benefit of hanging his shingle at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and as we also know from our poll, Seattleites do love a do-gooder. (Some 43 percent of us say we volunteer five or more times a year.) So I’m not exactly shocked that most of us would choose the khakied one.

But how did poor Jeff Bezos garner just 14.3 percent of the vote? We do appear to like what he’s selling: Roughly 52 percent of us claim an Amazon Prime membership. And one could argue that, in many ways, he already does run this town. His company now operates not one but two ever-growing Seattle campuses, a combined 10-million-square-foot thumbprint—big enough to host the estimated 55,000 Amazon employees who will work downtown and in South Lake Union by 2021. Few others have shaped our city more in the past decade. I should also note that Bezos funds one of the sharpest, most trusted critics of the current U.S. president, The Washington Post, which he purchased in 2013. (Remember, nine of out of 10 registered Seattle voters cast a ballot against that billionaire last fall.)

Then again, asked who you’d most trust to run the place, Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos—the man behind big flop the Zune or the man who killed all the bookstores—27 percent of you said you don’t know or said you wouldn’t trust either guy. And there’s nothing surprising about that at all.

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