Thousands of people gather in Liberty Plaza in March for the March For Our Lives rally in downtown Atlanta. Former Gov. Roy Barnes said that protests after the Parkland, Fla., shooting have changed the political dynamic, with candidates, especially Georgia Democrats, embracing issues they would not have in the past. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

AJC poll finds sky-high voter enthusiasm on the left – and right

The survey of 1,091 likely Georgia voters, conducted by the University of Georgia’s School of Public and International Affairs, found that 68 percent of Republicans and three-quarters of Democrats see the upcoming midterm election as “much more important” or “more important” than past votes. Those percentages ran even higher among voters who identify as “strong liberals” and “strong conservatives.” 

The numbers help explain the spike in early voting and the gubernatorial candidates’ push to motivate their respective bases to turn out as the number of undecided voters has dwindled in recent weeks. Recent polling shows Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican Brian Kemp remain neck-and-neck

Interactive: Poll results

PDF: Complete poll crosstabs

How the poll was conducted

More than 1.5 million Georgians have already cast their ballots, more than double the early turnout from the 2014 midterm elections. Numbers have spiked in both Republican strongholds and blue bastions across the state. 

And after initially shying away from nationalizing the race for governor, Kemp and Abrams have both thrown that approach out the window as they’ve sought to  run up vote totals in friendly parts of the state. 

Kemp successfully lobbied for President Donald Trump to campaign with him on Sunday and embarked on a three-city tour with Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday, stumping with two very popular figures among GOP voters. On the campaign trail he warns about Abrams’ “radical” views on red meat issues such as health care and immigration. 

Abrams has also launched more direct attacks on Kemp in recent weeks. She’s campaigned with a parade of 2020 presidential favorites beloved by Democrats, as well as talk show icon Oprah Winfrey. She also has plans to rally with former President Barack Obama on Friday. 

Democrats are counting on sustained fury against Trump to deliver them control of the House of Representatives and even flip a few gubernatorial seats such as Georgia’s. 

Disdain for Trump is one of the reasons why Sylvia Kleiman Fields of Savannah said she’s supporting Abrams. 

The 84-year-old nurse and physician educator has voted for both Democrats and Republicans in the past but said she was particularly turned off by the way Trump and some of his GOP allies have discussed the migrant caravan winding its way to the southern border. 

“It’s inhumane,” said Fields of the way Trump has talked about rebuffing the caravan, which she compared to the SS St. Louis, a ship of Jewish refugees that was turned back in 1939. 

Many Republicans were once resigned about their odds on Nov. 6 given historical trends working against the party in power, but the GOP has also seen a jolt in voter intensity following Trump’s recent base-pleasing immigration rhetoric and the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings

The way Democrats handled the sexual assault allegations levied against the Kavanaugh Supreme Court fight is one of the reasons why Scott Carroll, who describes himself as an on-the-fence, conservative-leaning voter, decided to back Kemp. 

“The way the Kavanaugh hearing went down really kind of irked me,” the Bowdon contractor said. “I think the Democrats acted improperly… I just kind of feel like the Democrats are starting to go off the rails.”

The poll found voter intensity was slightly higher among women and African-Americans than men and white voters. Fewer than one-third of respondents said they saw this year’s midterms as the “same level of importance” as other elections.

Read more about the latest AJC poll: 

Deadlocked Abrams-Kemp race could trigger runoff

Nearly half of Georgia voters concerned about fraud or voting access

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About the Author

Tamar Hallerman
Tamar Hallerman
Tamar Hallerman is The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Washington correspondent, covering Congress, federal agencies and other government activities that...

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