Three weekend polls put holiday runoffs in Georgia's future

As the weekend began, a number of statewide polls surfaced showing a mix of findings in races for governor and U.S. Senate.

The survey by the AJC gets first mention because – well, it’s our poll. It’s also the most extensive, with voice interviews on land lines and via cell phone. See the crosstabs here. The narrative:

Then we have a Channel 2 Action News poll, conducted by Mark Rountree and Landmark Communications, which puts insurgent Democrats in a decidedly better light. From the polling memo:

Democrat Jason Carter leads, but in a closer race than in our poll three weeks ago. 47% of voters say they would vote for Carter if the election were today, while 44% say they would vote for Gov. Nathan Deal. Libertarian Andrew Hunt carries 4% of voter and 5% of voters say they are undecided.

There is a significant difference between how men and women are voting: women are choosing Democrat Carter by a 15=point margin (53-38% for Carter), while men are choosing Deal by 11-point margin (50-39% for Deal) -- a net 26% difference.

Democrat Michelle Nunn leads, though her margin is shrinking. Nunn carries 46% of voters while Republican David Perdue carries 43%. Females are supporting Nunn 52-39%, while men are voting for Perdue 49-39%. Six percent of voters say they would vote for Libertarian Amanda Swafford. This may reflect some continued discord from the hard-fought GOP primary.

Then we have a Morris News Service/InsiderAdvantage poll:

The governor’s race remains tight but David Perdue now has a 10-point lead in the U.S. Senate contest, according to a poll released Friday.

Republican Nathan Deal holds support from 44 percent of the 1,167 likely voters surveyed Wednesday and Thursday by InsiderAdvantage. Democratic challenger Jason Carter has 40 percent, with a 3 percent margin of error. Libertarian Andrew Hunt has 7 percent, while 9 percent remain undecided.

While it may be tempting to declare a pox on all polls, first take a look at the common themes. All three have Georgia’s race for governor as more competitive than the race for U.S. Senate – underlining the danger of incumbency this year.

In all but one instance – the Morris News/InsiderAdvantage race for U.S. Senate – the surveys indicate that we could be headed for a pair of runoffs. For governor on Dec. 2, and for U.S. Senate on Jan. 6.

It is tempting to say that the polls contradict each other, but it ain’t necessarily so. The Morris poll lies behind a curtain, so we’re uncertain of the methodology. If someone with access could post the info in the comment section below, we’d be much obliged.

The WSB/Landmark poll is an automated affair of 1,108 likely voters. MOE is +/-2.9 percent. The results are weighted, with a presumed turnout on Nov. 4 that is 29 percent African-American and 54 percent female.

This not a bad bet. In the 2010 general election, black turnout was 28 percent, and women voters made up 53 percent of the electorate.

The AJC poll was conducted by Abt SRBI of New York, which also does the Washington Post/ABC News surveys. Its approach might be called more conservative, as far as methodology goes.

The AJC poll approaches turnout as something to be measured, not assumed. Demographic weighting occurs, but on the front end.

At this point in time, according to the AJC survey, 24 percent of African-Americans voters and 50 percent of women voters would participate in the balloting. This is not particularly surprising.

Republican voters are older, and so more likely to vote. A hot primary season has engaged the GOP faithful and has made them more likely to pass the likely voter screens set up by the poll.

The AJC poll underlines the enthusiasm challenge facing a Georgia Democratic party – but also shows that is on the cusp of political relevance again, if it can simply match the turnout levels of four years ago.

***

Jason Carter, the Democratic candidate for governor, is attempting to use Republican incumbent Nathan Deal’s opposition to Sunday voting as a way to spark a last-minute registration drive. From the campaign email sent out this weekend:

From Gov. Deal's office down to the legislature, Georgia Republicans have used their power to make it harder for you to exercise your constitutional right to vote.

Soon after he was elected, Gov. Deal signed a bill to cut the number of early voting days in half. And just recently, when one county decided to expand early voting to Sunday, he criticized it sharply, calling it partisan, and saying he would support legislative efforts to end it next year.

They know that if you, your neighbor, the person sitting next to you in the church pew goes to the polls, they don't stand a chance of holding on to their power.

The email provides a link to download a voting registration app via iTunes and Google Play.

***

It isn't enough to counter the Republican Governors Association, but Democrat Jason Carter's gubernatorial campaign is getting an infusion outside help:

The Democratic-leaning Better Georgia is putting $100,000 behind the above TV ad, about half of it in the metro Atlanta TV market. You may have seen the first volley, which landed Sunday morning on NBC's "Meet the Press." A separate digital campaign is targeting women.

Better Georgia can't hope to match the RGA, which has already invested $1.6 million in Gov. Nathan Deal's re-election and has pledged more help is on the way. But the group hopes sniping will keep Republicans on the defensive.

The ad seeks to remind voters that Deal sold a salvage yard he co-owned to a Texas-based firm called Copart that is locked in a dispute with the state over as much as $74 million in back taxes. Deal's campaign has called the salvage yard scrutiny a "phony" issue and Deal said he wants an independent jurist to resolve the tax fight.

***

So you think that an unconscious fiancée and a profoundly botched investigation might make the National Football League worry that its nonprofit status might be threatened. Don’t be ridiculous, says the Washington Post:

The NFL remains a heavy hitters in Washington. Its officials and political action committee donated more than $1.4 million to members of Congress during the past two election cycles, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. It spends millions as well on as many as 26 lobbyists from top-tier Washington firms.

Plus, if Congress were to revoke the NFL’s nonprofit, tax-exempt status, it might have to so the same for the National Hockey League and the Professional Golfers Association, men’s and women’s. Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association gave up their status in part because it wasn’t saving them much money, if any at all, and it meant revealing potentially embarrassing executive salary information.

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
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