Despite political headwinds favoring Republicans, freshman Sen. Raphael Warnock has outshined his Democratic ticket-mates and remained neck-and-neck with Republican candidate Herschel Walker.
A new statewide poll of likely voters paid for by the Georgia News Collaborative and conducted by the University of Georgia finds Warnock with a slight lead and picking up steam with key demographic groups.
Full document: GA News Poll Results_October 2022 for the full results, including demographic information and how voters responded to questions about topics at play in the election.
The poll, conducted largely before the latest bombshell allegations stirred new turmoil for Walker’s campaign, found Warnock with 46.4% of the vote to Walker’s 43.4, which is far from foreshadowing an easy landslide, but represents a gain of 4.2% for Warnock and a loss of 2.4% for Walker over a September poll also conducted by UGA.
In contrast, the poll showed Democrat Stacey Abrams with 42.2% of the vote compared with 50.2% for Republican Gov. Brian Kemp.
The poll’s margin of error is 3.1 percentage points.
Walker’s overall 2.4% decline included a gain of 3.2 points among men, but he dropped 6.3% among women since the prior poll. His support among white voters dipped from 64.5% to 63.9%, but his support among Black voters cratered from 9.2% to just 2%.
At the same time, Warnock saw his share of the vote grow 4.2%, and while his support among men dropped by 5.6%, women made up for the loss, growing in support by 8.6%. Warnock similarly dropped among white voters, by 2.3%, from 27.7% to 25.4%, but he gained 11.8% among Black voters, and he could still pick up more Black votes by Election Day.
“Warnock, he’s at 89% Black votes, so you would expect 90% at least, up to probably 95% sometimes,” Hood said. “So Warnock is doing much better at consolidating the Black vote. Abrams is at 81%. So about 10% of Black voters are undecided in the governor’s race. I would still look for that number to consolidate around Abrams, the Black vote, that is, at least 90%.”
“Walker doesn’t even have the Black support that Kemp does, so that’s certainly not helping him,” Hood added.
The number of undecided voters is shrinking as calendar dates leading to Nov. 8 dwindle. Overall, 6.1% of the 1,030 voters surveyed said they are undecided in the poll, down from 6.8% in September. More women and Black voters have yet to come to a final decision than men and white Georgians – 7.2% of women say they are undecided compared with 4.8% of men, and 7% of Black voters have yet to come to a decision compared with 5.8% of white voters. Those undecideds could provide a bump to Warnock and Abrams if they follow the trend of other Black and female voters and lean Democratic.
Walker’s loss may be Libertarian Senate candidate Chase Oliver’s gain. Oliver’s support grew .9% since September. Most of that came from self-described independents, whose support grew from 5.4% to 16.7%, though his numbers dropped slightly with both Democrats and Republicans. Overall, Oliver sits at 4.1% of the vote, making his chances of victory about as thin as a hair follicle, but he could deny either major party candidate more than the half the vote in November and force them into a December runoff.
Joseph Laster, a police officer in Chatham County, told pollsters he’s supporting Kemp and Oliver in the race.
Laster says he leans conservative but votes for the person he thinks will benefit him the most. As a police officer, public safety policy is very important to him.
“Warnock never really impressed me with anything that was going on,” he said. “He just kind of seemed a little bit more like he was there just for him. Nothing for me. I just don’t think Herschel Walker has anything really to offer. I think he’s more of a mouthpiece and a name for himself. So being the fact that I can’t vote for either one of them because I don’t think they represent me very well in either one of those spots, I’m going to vote for the Libertarian instead. Because if I don’t vote for somebody, I don’t have the right to complain about who’s in office.”
Laster is among 4.4% of the voters in the poll who plan to vote for Kemp and Oliver. Only .5% of voters said they were voting for both Abrams and Oliver, and 1.2% said they will vote for Abrams and Walker. A larger split-ticket cohort, 8.6%, say they will cast their ballot for Republican Kemp and Democrat Warnock.
Among them is Blake Briese, a financial advisor from Fulton County. Briese said he typically votes Democratic, but he has concerns with the direction of the party and he’s splitting his ticket this year. Kemp earned his vote, Briese said, with decisions like passing the permitless carry law and calling up the National Guard in response to 2020 protests in Atlanta, but he has no such warm feelings for Walker.
Briese said he’ll hear Walker out at Friday’s debate, but he does not feel like the former UGA football star is cut out for the U.S. Senate.
“It feels like every couple of weeks there’s another piece of information that comes out (about Walker),” Briese said, referencing the latest allegations that the anti-abortion Walker paid for a girlfriend to have the procedure. “So I think that’s maybe my biggest problem with him. I don’t feel that he is trustworthy. He doesn’t have a record in public office. And then when he talks, I think he just kind of just says whatever he thinks people want him to say. And it’s disingenuous.”
Walker’s campaign has been tormented by allegations of violent and strange past behavior, including claims of abuse against former romantic partners and unfounded boasts of career success and law enforcement experience. Walker has admitted to suffering from mental illness and said he has overcome his past.
The Georgia News Collaborative poll was conducted Sept. 25 through Oct. 4, which means only about 7% of respondents were privy to the new reports about the alleged abortion and claims of abuse from Walker’s adult son.
“There’s a shift in this race, if you compare it back to the September numbers of Walker plus two now to Warnock plus three. And we would have to say that most of that was not due to this recent release of bad information for the Walker campaign, because it couldn’t have affected most of the people on the survey,” said Hood.
Still, the race remains close, and many Republican voters are willing to either overlook the allegations or chalk them up to a dishonest media. Pam Calloway, a 55-year-old receptionist from Fayette County and a Kemp/Walker voter, said she sees a story of redemption in Walker’s alleged misdeeds.
“As a Christian, if you were to go back in my life and look at some of the decisions I made before I found Grace and before He saved me, well, my goodness, you’d pull up skeletons left and right,” she said. “I mean, if I ran for office, you could crucify me from some of the choices. But I believe that he’s been forthcoming. He hasn’t hid anything.”
GPB News reporter Riley Bunch contributed to this report.
The Georgia News Collaborative represents organizations and individuals with a passion and ability for strengthening local news in Georgia. Members, including the Georgia Recorder, represent a diverse array of geographies, media types, and constituencies. The collaborative aims to strengthen local news in Georgia by sharing resources, providing training and cooperating on reporting projects.
Georgia Recorder is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity.