AJC Poll: Trump leads Biden in Georgia ahead of Atlanta debate

Sharp warning signs emerge in the state for both candidates.
Former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden.

Credit: Associated Press

Credit: Associated Press

Former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden.

Former President Donald Trump holds a slight lead over President Joe Biden in Georgia in an Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll released Tuesday ahead of an Atlanta debate that could be one of the most consequential events of the 2024 election.

The poll of likely voters shows Trump leads Biden 43% to 38%, just outside the margin of error of 3.1 percentage points. Independent contender Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who is not yet on the Georgia ballot but is expected to qualify, is at 9%. Another 8% are undecided.

There are sharp warning signs for Biden and Trump in Georgia, which emerged as one of the nation’s premier battleground states in 2020 after Biden became the first Democratic presidential contender to capture the state in nearly three decades.

Nearly half of all voters polled say they approve of the New York jury’s May verdict that found Trump guilty of 34 felony charges, including a slim majority of independent voters — a group that for a long time reliably voted Republican in Georgia. And roughly one-third of independents say the convictions make them less likely to back him.

The poll reflects Biden’s struggles refashioning the coalition of young liberals, Black voters and swing suburbanites that propelled his narrow win four years ago.

His support among young voters has cratered, with just 12% of Georgians between 18-29 saying they’ll vote for the Democrat in the poll. Previous AJC polls showed Biden with significantly more backing from younger voters.

Most of the younger voters polled said the country is “on the wrong track,” more than any age group polled.

A majority of voters (56%) disapprove of Biden’s performance in office, including about one-fifth of Black voters and more than 60% of independent voters. And nearly 70% say the country is headed in the wrong direction.

The poll won’t ease Democratic concerns about Biden’s soft support among Black voters, the party’s most loyal constituency. About 70% of Black Georgians say they’ll back Biden while 9% support Trump. Exit polls in 2020 showed Biden with 88% of the Black vote in Georgia.

But Democrats are far more worried about apathy among Black voters than bleeding Black votes to Trump, who captured about 11% of Black support in 2020. Highlighting those worries, the AJC poll shows that nearly one-fifth of Black voters are undecided or plan to stay home.

The poll was conducted by the University of Georgia’s School of Public and International Affairs from June 11-22 and involved 1,000 likely voters.

‘Always optimistic.’

The poll echoed results of previous surveys that showed Gov. Brian Kemp with higher approval ratings than Biden and other national figures, with nearly two-thirds of likely voters saying they somewhat or strongly approve of his record.

It also showed an ongoing divide among voters over the criminal charges against Trump in Georgia and three other jurisdictions.

Overall, 17% of poll respondents say the convictions in New York of falsifying business records related to hush money payments make them more likely to vote for Trump, while about a quarter say they make them less likely. A majority (56%) say it makes no difference.

“I think that whole thing was a travesty,” said Gary Eubanks, a 75-year-old military veteran and Trump backer who works part-time at a Cleveland retail store. He said if people “do something wrong, you have to face the circumstances. But at the same time, I’m for fairness. I think that whole thing was a sham.”

The poll showed most of Kennedy’s supporters are ideological moderates who consider themselves politically independent. But a handful of once-reliable Democratic and Republican voters also indicated they would back his bid.

“I feel like I’m typically a Democratic voter, but I can’t support the funding for Israel that the party has pushed through,” said Jessica See, a Marietta health care worker. “I really can’t support a criminal either. I’m screwed either way, so I’m going to support the candidate who hasn’t done anything horrible yet.”

Inflation and the economy were by far the most pressing issues for likely voters, with 42% saying they would have the “biggest influence” on their decision.

About 15% said preserving democracy was their leading factor, along with 13% who said immigration leads their concerns. Issues including health care, public safety, taxes and abortion trailed in the single digits.

Karen Williams, who opened a travel agency after retiring from IBM, said she listed preserving voting rights as her top concern after a 2020 election marred by conspiracy theories and lies about widespread election fraud in Georgia.

“I am very, very focused on the preservation of democracy and the preservation of freedom. The Biden-Harris administration personifies that,” said the DeKalb County resident. “And the opposing candidate not so much.”

She noted the frenzy of activities by the Biden campaign in Georgia meant to reassure voters that Biden is competing in a state he narrowly captured four years ago. Still, Williams expressed concerns about his prospects for a repeat win.

“I worry that Georgia may be out of reach,” Williams said. “But I am always, always optimistic. I am hoping that Georgia can pull it again.”

Staff writer Caleb Groves contributed to this report.