One of the biggest mysteries of the May primary is how much sway Donald Trump still has among GOP voters. A University of Georgia poll offers an early glimpse at the power – and limits – of the former president’s support.
The poll involved a specially designed experiment that divided respondents into two groups. One group was informed which candidate the former president endorsed before being asked their vote choice in five separate statewide races. The other didn’t receive that information.
The results of the poll, conducted by UGA’s School of Public and International Affairs, showed Trump’s blessing didn’t significantly influence the race for governor or U.S. Senate. But it could bring a dramatic boost to down-ticket candidates.
Let’s start with the premier contests. Gov. Brian Kemp led former U.S. Sen. David Perdue, his Trump-backed challenger, 48-37, among the group of voters not informed of the former president’s pick. Perdue’s numbers only ticked up slightly – to 39% – with the group that knew about Trump’s backing.
Former football standout Herschel Walker tallied 64% of the vote among voters not told which candidate Trump endorsed compared with 76% in the group that was informed. While the 12-point gap was noticeable, Walker was already far ahead of GOP rivals who lagged in the single digits.
It’s a different tale down the ticket. Support for Burt Jones was nearly 30 percentage points higher among the group told about Trump’s endorsement of his bid for lieutenant governor. Likewise for U.S. Rep. Jody Hice’s campaign for secretary of state.
And Patrick Witt, a little-known contender for insurance commissioner, tallied just 8% among the group not told about Trump’s blessing. But his support soared to 52% among the respondents who were made aware of Trump’s support.
Trey Hood, the UGA political scientist who conducted the poll, said it was something of a mixed bag.
“In the governor’s race, Trump doesn’t seem to matter at all. In the Senate race, Walker gets a bump but he’s so far ahead it doesn’t matter,” said Hood. “Down the ticket, it does matter. But in order for it to count, the candidates have to make sure voters know about it.”
Read the polling memo here.
Here are other findings of the poll:
· About 60% of likely GOP primary voters say the state’s new election law has “greatly or somewhat” increased their confidence in Georgia’s election system. Two-thirds indicated they were confident the November 2022 election will be conducted fairly.
· Still, almost three-quarters – 73% – say Biden won the presidential election as a result of fraud.
· About 84% of Georgia GOP primary voters have a favorable opinion of Trump and 61% think he should run for president again. One-third thought he should not run again.
· Roughly 41% say a Trump endorsement makes them more likely to vote for a particular candidate, compared to half who said an endorsement would make no difference. About 8% said it would make them less likely to support a Trump-endorsed candidate.
· Inflation was the top issue for GOP primary voters, followed by elections-related issues and more general concerns about the economy.
· When asked about the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol, 83% of respondents indicated it was “time to move on,” while 13% said it should never be forgotten.