New Georgia Poll Highlights Enduring Problem For Republicans

CUMMING, GA - DECEMBER 20: A supporter waits for the start of a rally for Georgia Republican Senate candidates David Perdue (R-GA) and Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) on December 20, 2020 in Cumming, Georgia. The Senate Firewa... CUMMING, GA - DECEMBER 20: A supporter waits for the start of a rally for Georgia Republican Senate candidates David Perdue (R-GA) and Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) on December 20, 2020 in Cumming, Georgia. The Senate Firewall campaign event comes ahead of a crucial runoff election for Perdue and Loeffler on January 5th that will determine what party controls the United States Senate. (Photo by Jessica McGowan/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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December 22, 2020 11:06 a.m.

A new poll from SurveyUSA, sponsored by an Atlanta NBC affiliate, sought to collect data on a question Republicans and Democrats alike have been asking for weeks: will Republicans who believe the general election was rigged vote in the runoff?

According to the poll, a good percentage of them won’t.

Just over 11 percent of the 691 Georgia registered voters polled (from a total pool of 800 voting-age adults polled) said that they will not vote in the runoff election. That group is disproportionately comprised of conservatives. And 55 percent of those who identify as “very conservative” added that they are skipping the runoff because “the voting process is rigged.” Another seven percent of the very conservative voters reported that they are “intentionally boycotting” the election.

All told, that pool who aren’t likely to vote in the runoff is made up of 78 registered voters, so its usefulness is limited — as SurveyUSA itself acknowledges.

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“Georgia is a hot mess and no opinion pollster could possibly say what will happen when votes are counted in 2 weeks, 01/05/2021,” SurveyUSA’s analysis notes.

It also points out that President Donald Trump’s recently announced rally on January 4 may sweep those resistant conservatives into the voting booth.

The poll generally had good toplines for Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock: Ossoff is up 51 percent to Sen. David Perdue’s (R-GA) 46. Warnock is up 52 percent to Sen. Kelly Loeffler’s (R-GA) 45. It’s a sunnier result than the Democrats have seen in other, admittedly sparse, polling in the state.

Interestingly, while the Warnock-Loeffler numbers held steady from SurveyUSA’s last poll which was published at the beginning of December, the crosstabs of this poll suggest that Loeffler has since alienated independents and moderates while drawing those who identify as “very conservative” like moths to a flame.

That tracks with her no-holds-barred rhetoric. After picking off Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) by tacking hard to the right ahead of the Nov. 3 election, Loeffler has run an incendiary campaign against Warnock replete with racial dog whistling and factually dubious innuendo, particularly about a child abuse case at a church where Warnock used to work.

The sketchy polling picture of Georgia is unlikely to improve by the runoff. Jay Leve, CEO of SurveyUSA, told TPM in a recent interview that his firm won’t be conducting another before Election Day. Big national networks and outlets have stayed away from polling the race, and there aren’t many more local outlets planning to sponsor a survey. As Leve told TPM, the dead time between Christmas and New Years is a particularly inopportune stretch for pollsters to try to get ahold of runoff voters, a group that tends to be hard — and, thus, expensive — to find and poll.

On top of the special conditions of a holiday-time runoff, Trump supporters are notoriously hard to poll in general, as seen in 2016 and confirmed in November.

Turnout has been quite high in the race so far, and some preliminary numbers hold potentially good signs for the Democrats — particularly the high Black vote, as compared to the general election. About 41,000 voters who didn’t participate in the general election cast early votes in the runoff, according to the Washington Post’s analysis. That newly registered group includes many young voters and voters of color as compared to the rest of the runoff voters.

But there are still a number of variables at play, including Republicans’ resistance this year to voting absentee, the COVID-19 pandemic, Trump’s eleventh-hour visit and the dump truck-full of mostly frivolous election lawsuits fired off almost daily by state and national Republicans.

And the “rigged election” contingent’s behavior, possibly a make-or-break for Republicans if the races are close, remains hard to predict.

“Just 18 percent of Perdue and Loeffler voters have ‘full confidence’ their runoff vote will be counted accurately, compared to 67 percent of Ossoff and Warnock voters,” the SurveyUSA analysis reads. “How this astonishing 4:1 disparity in the very underpinning of Democracy will affect turnout in a pandemic is unknowable.”

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