Exclusive AJC poll: Reed and Moore continue to lead in mayor’s race, but heap of voters still undecided

Atlanta mayoral candidates (from left) Felicia Moore, Andre Dickens, Antonio Brown, Kasim Reed and Sharon Gay participate in a debate earlier this month. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)



Atlanta mayoral candidates (from left) Felicia Moore, Andre Dickens, Antonio Brown, Kasim Reed and Sharon Gay participate in a debate earlier this month. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

City Council President Felicia Moore and former Mayor Kasim Reed still sit atop the field of candidates running to be Atlanta’s next mayor, though 41% of voters remain undecided with less than two weeks until Election Day.

Those are the topline findings of a new poll commissioned by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and conducted Oct. 6-20 by the University of Georgia’s School of Public and International Affairs.

It shows Moore at about 24% and Reed at about 20%, with a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.

The new poll mirrors in several ways a survey commissioned by the AJC in September, which gave Reed a whisker of a lead over Moore that fell within the margin of error. The earlier poll also had 41% of respondents undecided.

Former mayor Kasim Reed accepted an endorsement from the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 134.  (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Jenni Girtman

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Credit: Jenni Girtman

The rest of the candidates have failed to make up much ground over the past month, with Councilman Andre Dickens at 6%, attorney Sharon Gay at 4% and Councilman Antonio Brown with 2%. None of the other nine candidates cracked 1%.

“There still are a tremendous number of people who have at least told us they’re going to participate in the election, but they’re not tuned in yet,” said Trey Hood, the director of UGA’s Survey Research Center.

Only one quarter of the electorate says it is “very closely” watching the race. About 40% say they’re either not paying attention or “not very closely” monitoring the contest.

And that’s not for lack of trying, as exposure to the candidates has grown. About 85% of voters remember seeing a Reed ad, while 70% have seen a Moore ad. The numbers for the other three hopefuls hover around 50%.

Faye Brown, a 33-year-old Atlanta native who participated in the poll, said she plans to vote for Moore — but isn’t especially thrilled to do so.

“I felt like she had the most experience and the best policies, but, honestly, I don’t think any of the candidates stand out in terms of being progressive or showing the interests of the citizens at heart,” said Brown, who lives in Buckhead.

City Council President and mayoral candidate Felicia Moore talks with supporters after a press conference in Atlanta Friday, October 1, 2021.  STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

Credit: Steve Schaefer

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Credit: Steve Schaefer

The poll wasn’t all good news for Reed. It showed roughly half of the Atlanta electorate has an unfavorable view of him. That’s slightly higher than the September poll, which showed his unfavorability at 44%. About one-third see him in a positive light.

And about 61% of voters say the federal corruption probe into his previous mayoral administration makes it “less likely” for them to support him.

Nick Juliano, a political strategist and consultant, said Reed has historically had “an unmatched get-out-the-vote operation. And getting voters to the polls is what’s going to make or break his success on Election Day.”

Reed has the vote of 43-year-old downtown resident Lisa Francis, who said she likes that the former mayor has experience and is a father.

“His record speaks for itself,” said Francis, who participated in the poll.

Robert Pagan, 27, said he is still undecided but knows he won’t vote for Reed because of the corruption probe.

Pagan, another likely voter in the survey, said he has seen crime get worse where he lives in Edgewood and wants a mayor who will reduce crime while focusing on affordable housing. He said he plans on doing some research this weekend before casting his ballot.

The other candidates face a different sort of challenge than Reed.

About 37% of voters still don’t have an opinion on Moore, while 50% have a favorable impression of her, compared with 14% unfavorable.

About 59% don’t know Dickens, though that number is down substantially from the September poll (72%). The percentage of the electorate that views him favorably went up to 33%, from 20% in September. Gay also saw an increase in name recognition and favorability, while Brown’s numbers stayed about the same.

Dickens’ campaign said in a statement about the poll that “we’re seeing a very different race on the ground.”

Moore’s campaign said it is “feeling really strong and excited as we count down to November 2nd,” while Reed’s campaign said it is “not taking any vote for granted.”

Crime remained the top concern for Atlanta voters. The September poll found that 44% of Atlantans saw it as the most pressing issue; in this poll, the number inched up to 48%. About 61% of respondents said they live within a mile of an area where they’d be afraid to walk alone at night.

Affordable housing was a distant second on the list of most important issues in both polls.

Overall, about 48% of voters believe Atlanta is headed in the wrong direction, which is slightly better than the last poll. When it comes to city-state relations, Moore (26%) and Reed (23%) lead the pack on the question of who would do the best job championing Atlanta’s interests to state government.

Early voting started last week for the Nov. 2 election, and a runoff between the top two candidates is set for Nov. 30 if no one gets more than 50% of the vote.

Staff writer Greg Bluestein contributed to this article.