The AJC’s newest poll came out Tuesday morning, with plenty of good news for Republicans, bad news for Democrats, and many unresolved questions with less than eight weeks out from Election Day.
It also gives us a good snapshot, today and only today, of who’s up, who’s down, and what we still don’t know. Here’s where things stand:
Gov. Brian Kemp — The governor is not only leading Stacey Abrams by eight points, he is hitting the crucial 50% threshold, which would help him avoid a runoff against Abrams. Even better news for his team, 54% of likely voters approve of the job he’s doing and he’s even winning female voters by 2 points in the poll, a result Abrams hopes to reverse.
Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger — Cue the Rudy soundtrack, because Brad Raffesperger has defied every prediction of his demise since the moment someone hit record on his now infamous phone call with former President Trump. Ironically, it may be that very moment that has fueled Raffensperger’s trip to the top of the polls. He is now sitting right at 50%, and 19 points ahead of his Democratic challenger, state Rep. Bee Nguyen. The Democrat is unquestionably a rising star in her own party, but nobody told the 19% of Democrats and plurality of Independents he’s winning.
Statewide Republicans running with Kemp. The Kemp bump is strong for the lesser-known Republicans in the poll, including incumbent Republican Attorney General Chris Carr, lieutenant governor hopeful, state Sen. Burt Jones, and even Herschel Walker, who is tied with U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock.
U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock. Although Warnock is essentially tied with Walker in the poll, he the only statewide Democrat whose personal brand is withstanding President Joe Biden’s rock-heavy disapproval ratings and an ugly national environment for Democrats. The surprising secret sauce for Warnock’s continued viability? Conservatives, 15% of whom are supporting the Ebenezer pastor, along with independents, who are going two-to-one for him over Walker right now.
President Joe Biden. It seems like the commander-in-chief can’t catch a break with Georgia voters. Gas prices have dropped for more than 12 weeks in a row, and many of the laws he’s signed lately, like allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices, are broadly popular. But with inflation at historic highs and interest rates climbing, anxiety over the economy is dragging Biden’s approval ratings down to 37%. Even worse, 70% of voters say the country is on the wrong track, with just 19% saying we’re headed in the right direction. No matter which Democrat is on the ballot, those are tough numbers to get past.
Stacey Abrams. Not only is Abrams trailing by 8 points, but she’s also still struggling in this poll to win over enough Black voters, getting 79% percent of Black support, compared to the 90%-plus that Democrats in Georgia typically need to win statewide. One silver lining — the poll also shows about 10% of Black voters still undecided, along with 21% of independents, so there’s room for Abrams to improve and get where she needs to be on Election Day.
Former President Donald Trump. Deep in the cross tabs of the poll, likely GOP voters were asked if they consider themselves “Trump supporters” or supporters of the Republican Party. The party won out over the former president, 57% to 38%. Add to that the strength of Kemp, Raffensperger, Carr, and the other Republicans whom Trump failed to defeat in May primaries, and you’ve got a GOP electorate that seems ready to turn the page from the Trump years.
Statewide Democrats. After Biden’s win in 2020 and Democrats’ victories in the U.S. Senate runoffs, 2022 seemed like the best possible year to run statewide as a Democrat. But fast forward a year, and the mountain looks much higher to climb.
WHAT WE STILL DON’T KNOW
Will abortion break out as a driving issue? This is the first time in nearly 50 years that voters will go to the polls with abortion rights no longer protected by Roe v. Wade. But abortion alone is not yet breaking out as a game-changer for Democrats in the AJC poll. Just 5% of voters called abortion the most important issue facing the country, compared to 36% who called the cost of living or the economy the most important issue. But it’s hard to imagine the abortion issue will play no role at all. Time will tell.
Who’s going to vote? There are many ways to survey likely voters, but no good way to measure infrequent voters like the ones Democrats are hoping to register, motivate, and deliver to the polls in November. There’s also no reliable way to quantify campaigns’ turnout operations, so the quality of each party’s get-out-the-vote efforts won’t be clear until the votes are counted.
Way-down ticket races. There is very little reliable polling in state House and Senate races, so it’s hard to know exactly which candidates are leading or how down-ballot races might affect the races at the top of the ticket, even on the margins. Democrats in Gwinnett and Cobb also fret that the absence of competitive races in the 6th and 7th Congressional districts could be leaving the all-important suburbs without 2020′s built-in motivators for Democrats to get to the polls.
Your plans for the holidays. This week’s AJC poll is another in a long line that have shown Herschel Walker or Raphael Warnock below 50%. If neither wins a majority on Election Night, they’ll head to a Dec. 6 runoff.
The October surprise. It happens every time — an event or development nobody saw coming. Will it be a Donald Trump visit to Georgia? Or something that comes out during a Warnock-Walker debate? Anything can happen-- and that’s why we’ll all keep watching.
Patricia Murphy joined the AJC in 2020 from CQ Roll Call, where she was a a nationally syndicated political columnist. She has also covered national politics for The Daily Beast, AOL's Politics Daily, and founded Citizen Jane Politics. She graduated from Vanderbilt University and holds a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University.