AJC Poll: Georgia’s new senator is playing catch-up with voters

News and analysis from the AJC's political team

New U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler is hardly known to most of the Georgia voters who will decide her electoral fate in November. One of her top potential Republican rivals, meanwhile, has a solid head start.

An Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll released this week found that only about a quarter of registered voters have a favorable impression of Loeffler, a former financial executive who was appointed to the office by Gov. Brian Kemp in December.

About one-fifth of voters have an unfavorable view of Loeffler and more than half don't know or refused to answer. Among Republicans, her standing is only slightly improved: About one-third of GOP voters have a positive view of Kemp's pick and 60% don't know enough about her to answer.

Loeffler has promised to spend at least $20 million of her own cash to finance her November bid to fill out the final two years of retired U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson's term, and she's already launched her first round of ads to drive up her name recognition.

Notably, the ads were less focused on introducing herself to voters and more on affirming her support for President Donald Trump. It's one sign she's trying to insulate herself from a challenge from U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, the Gainesville lawmaker who has repeatedly threatened to run against her.

About one-third of voters gave Collins favorable reviews in the AJC poll while about one-fifth had a negative impression. Nearly half of voters didn’t know or refused to answer.

Still, Collins had a far higher profile with Republicans, possibly due to his ubiquitous presence on cable TV shows defending Trump from impeachment charges. About 53% of Republican voters had a favorable impression of him, compared to just 6% who have negative views.

>> Interactive: Complete poll results

>> Related: AJC poll: Voters back casinos and sports gambling in Georgia

Among independents, generally a decisive voting bloc in Georgia politics, Collins also has an edge. About 30% of independents have a positive view of Collins, while 16% of those voters feel the same about Loeffler. Roughly 55% of independents don’t know enough about either candidate to form an opinion.

Collins, recently tapped to Trump's impeachment team, is expected to soon decide whether to run. Since there's no primary to hash out nominees, if Collins enters the race he'll be on the same November ballot as Loeffler and several Democrats also in the running.

Matt Lieberman, an educator who is the son of former U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman, entered the race last year. And former federal prosecutor Ed Tarver recently told the AJC he'll soon join. But they risk being overshadowed by another newcomer who is likely to shake up the contest.

>> Related: AJC poll: Trump job approval continues to lag among women, black voters

>> PDF: Poll crosstabs

>> More: AJC poll archive

The AJC reported earlier this month that prominent state and national Democrats back the Rev. Raphael Warnock, who is preparing a run for the seat. He gave a preview of his campaign message at the Martin Luther King Jr. Day ceremony this week at Ebenezer Baptist Church, where he is the spiritual leader.