If you want to see one of the starkest fault lines in Georgia politics, look no further than the gender gap.
Male and female voters are deeply divided over this year’s top candidates for governor and President Donald Trump, according to a new Atlanta Journal-Constitution/Channel 2 Action News poll, even as they largely agree on top policy issues and their assessment of outgoing Gov. Nathan Deal.
The survey showed that 49 percent of female voters plan to support Democrat Stacey Abrams, who is vying to become Georgia’s first female governor, and 38 percent back Republican Brian Kemp.
Compare that to male voters, who provided an almost mirror image to the survey’s female respondents. Fifty-three percent said they would support Kemp, the current secretary of state, while 39 percent planned to vote for Abrams, the former Georgia House minority leader.
Overall, Kemp and Abrams are neck and neck, based on the recent poll of 1,020 likely voters by the University of Georgia’s School of Public and International Affairs.
Trump also solicited a similar gender divide among likely Georgia voters, according to the survey.
Slightly more than half of the likely male voters polled said they approved of the president nearly two years into his tenure, compared with only 35 percent of women. That echoes national surveys that have showed Trump to be much more popular with men, even when compared with past Republican presidents.
Meanwhile, more than one-third of Georgia women said they have become more active since Trump’s election, slightly higher than their male counterparts.
The two sexes were more in line on their opinions of Deal. More than two-thirds of men said they approved of the Republican, along with 60 percent of women.
And both men and women made clear they are focused on pocketbook issues in the lead up to the midterms. Jobs and the economy topped both sexes’ lists for the single most important issue determining their vote, followed by health care.
Both Abrams and Kemp have honed their pitches on those issues as they’ve looked to appeal to undecided voters in the race’s final eight weeks. The two have also sought to soften their images on divisive social debates such as those over Confederate monuments and ‘religious liberty.’
Kemp’s television ads have also notably shifted in tone. After securing the GOP nomination with a deeply conservative message and provocative ads featuring guns, explosions and a pickup truck, one of his most recent spots featured his wife Marty with a family photo album saying that Kemp was “steady as a rock.”
Gender divides in Georgia politics are not new. At this point in the gubernatorial race four years ago, Democrat Jason Carter held almost the exact same lead among women as Abrams but later went on to lose to Deal. And Trump won Georgia by roughly 5 percentage points two years later with stronger support among men.
This year, a record number of female candidates will be on the ballot in Georgia for both statewide and federal posts.
That makes a difference for some voters such as Susan, a retired paralegal from Newnan who declined to give her last name and is supporting Abrams for governor.
“I am more inclined, probably, to vote for women,” she said. “I think women are smarter and much more stable than men when they’re politicians.”
For Monique Younger, a filmmaker from Fayetteville, the history-making aspect of Abrams candidacy is appealing but not the main factor that determined her support.
“I think those things are important. However, I don’t feel like that would be my main reason for voting for her,” Younger said of Abrams. “Her vision is more in line with the direction I think Georgia should go.”
Elaine Byrnside, a retired business owner from Columbus who is supporting Kemp, said sex has “nothing to do” with the way she determines political candidates to support.
“It’s quality of the person running and the party platforms that they endorse,” she said. Kemp, she added, has the right experience from his years as secretary of state.
AJC / Channel 2 Action News poll
The poll of 1,020 likely voters was conducted Aug. 26 to Sept. 4 by the University of Georgia’s School of Public and International Affairs. The margin of error is 3.1 percentage points.