Georgia voters provided a razor-thin margin in the general election for its Senate seat last month. It looks as though the runoff will also go to the wire, at least on the limited polling we have seen thus far.
And that may be all we can conclude from the latest survey from Emerson College. The poll shows incumbent Democrat Raphael Warnock leading 49/47 among decided likely voters, and 51/49 when counting leaners among the 4% undecided. Needless to say, however, this is a statistical dead heat in both instances, although voter expectations now lean more heavily in Warnock’s favor:
Spencer Kimball, Executive Director of Emerson College Polling, said, “Warnock’s base lies with voters under 50–a 55% majority support him for re-election–whereas Walker holds a similar 55% majority among voters over 50.” Kimball continued, “The early vote breaks for Warnock by about 29 points, 63% to 34%, whereas those who have yet to cast their ballot break for Walker by eight points 52% to 44%.”
Regardless of whom voters support, 57% expect Senator Warnock to be re-elected, while 43% expect Walker to win.
Kimball noted, “Despite the ballot test being well within the poll’s margin of error, a Walker win would surprise the majority of voters. About 1 in 5 Republicans expect their nominee to lose. This reflects a significant shift since the last pre-general election poll earlier this month, where voters were nearly 50-50 if Warnock or Walker would win.”
President Biden holds a 42% approval among Georgia runoff voters, 52% disapprove of the job he is doing as president. Since the final pre-general election Emerson poll, Biden’s approval has increased by one percentage point and his disapproval has held at 52%.
Ironically, the only thing that has changed in the runoff is the perception of the likely outcome — at least with Emerson. The overall 49/47 is almost identical to the general-election outcome from last month, which Warnock led 49.43/48.5. Joe Biden’s standing among Georgia voters remains static, and not in a good position. Even the early vote/Election Day vote trends look pretty much the same.
Normally, one would see this as weakness on Warnock’s part rather than Walker. An incumbent should have gathered more strength than this, especially given the overall trend of the midterm this cycle for Republicans. That likely is the source of the new pessimism among GOP voters in Georgia, but at least in this poll, that’s not translating into a loss of support for Walker or new support for Warnock in the runoff. That would tend to suggest that Walker may not be a great candidate, but Warnock looks like a weak incumbent too.
That’s all the more remarkable given Warnock’s air superiority in the runoff:
In that period, some $79 million has been poured in to buy airtime. And spending by groups supporting Democratic incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock has more than doubled contributions from groups backing Republican challenger Herschel Walker, according to data from the ad-tracking firm AdImpact and analyzed by NPR. …
Here’s how the TV spending for this runoff breaks down:
- Pro Warnock: $54 million ($25m campaign, $29m outside groups)
- Pro Walker: $25 million ($10m campaign, $15m outside groups)
The air blitz may add to the perception that Warnock will win. That could turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy if it dents Republican turnout, but Warnock’s team should be veeeerrrryyyyy nervous that all this messaging isn’t moving the needle on candidate preference. Like, at all, at least with Emerson.
What do other polls say? Well … what other polls? We’ll likely see more data over the weekend ahead of Tuesday’s official voting day in the runoff, but this is only the second poll listed by RCP in its runoff aggregation thus far. The other from Fabrizio/Anzalone gave Warnock a four-point edge at 51/47, although that was also within their survey’s ±4.4% margin of error.
How did these pollsters fare against the general-election results? Emerson actually came pretty close, estimating a two-point lead for Warnock one week before the election, 50/48; they only missed by a fraction of overestimation of Warnock’s eventual result. Fabrizio/Anzalone didn’t do any polling after July (at least not aggregated by RCP), but their 50/47 for Warnock was similarly close.
Basically, Walker is at least still running neck and neck. Turnout and ground game will make a big difference, and perhaps the absence of more news from Walker’s patron Donald Trump might help get out the in-person vote, too. Absent other data, this looks like it will go right down to the wire.