The data driving Kemp, Abrams’ appeal to center

Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican Brian Kemp have been honing their pitches on some kitchen table issues. A new Atlanta Journal-Constitution/Channel 2 Action News poll explains why.

One-quarter of likely Georgia voters listed jobs and the economy as the most important issue determining their vote in November. Sixteen percent said health care was their top concern, and an equal number cited public schools.

Meanwhile, divisive social issues such as ‘religious liberty’ and guns didn’t crack the double digits in the University of Georgia survey.

The poll shows why Kemp and Abrams have been spending more time at their post-Labor Day events discussing health care and the economy as they look to win over undecided voters.

The survey also registered notable differences between GOP and Democratic voters, helping illuminate why Kemp and Abrams haven’t completely abandoned the red meat topics that helped secure them their party’s nominations.

Nearly one in five of the survey’s Republican respondents ranked immigration as their most important political issue, compared to just 6 percent of Democrats.

Kemp rose in the polls in the lead up to this spring's GOP primary after running a series of provocative ads, including one in which the secretary of state boasted that he had a big pickup truck "just in case I need to round up criminal illegals and take 'em home myself."

Among Democrats, public schools ranked nearly as high of an issue for voters as health care. Abrams constantly discusses increasing funding for public education on the campaign trail.

Overall, Kemp and Abrams are neck and neck, according to the survey.

Here are other nuggets from the poll:

  • Other than immigration, one of the largest gulfs between Democratic and Republican voters is on health care. While 26 percent of Democrats ranked health care as their top issue this year, only 8 percent of likely GOP voters agreed. This comes as a group of Republican states, including Georgia, went to court earlier this week to take another strike at Obamacare.
  • Health care is more of an issue for poorer Georgians than their rich counterparts. Twenty-six percent of likely voters making less than $25,000 annually listed the issue as their top one this year.
  • Wealthier voters have the economy on their minds. Upwards of 30 percent of respondents making above $100,000 a year said jobs and the economy was of the utmost importance.
  • Gun laws were less of a concern for most Georgia voters. Nine percent of Democrats and 8 percent of GOP voters listed the subject as their top issue roughly six months after the Parkland shootings.
  • A plurality of independent voters, 25 percent, listed public schools as their top issue, more than the economy or health care.
  • Speaking of public schools, the issue was listed as the most important to nearly twice as many women as men.
  • Nearly two-thirds of voters said they would describe the state of Georgia's economy as good or excellent.

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.

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