Politics

Survey: Georgia Voters Divided Over State Of The Nation

Georgians kept an eye on Tuesday’s election results. A survey showed that voters casting midterm election ballots in Georgia are divided over the state of the nation.
Georgians kept an eye on Tuesday’s election results. A survey showed that voters casting midterm election ballots in Georgia are divided over the state of the nation.
Credit Ian Palmer / WABE
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Voters casting midterm election ballots in Georgia are divided over the state of the nation, according to a wide-ranging survey of the American electorate.

As voters cast ballots for governor and members of Congress in Tuesday’s elections, AP VoteCast found that about 4 in 10 Georgia voters said the country is on the right track, compared with about half who said the country is headed in the wrong direction.

Here’s a snapshot of who voted and why in Georgia, based on preliminary results from AP VoteCast, an innovative nationwide survey of about 139,000 voters and nonvoters — including 3,984 voters and 627 nonvoters in the state of Georgia — conducted for The Associated Press by NORC at the University of Chicago.

The Governor’s Race

Stacey Abrams, the Democratic nominee for Georgia governor, implied early Wednesday that a runoff is likely and says voters will get a “do-over.” Democrats hoped to overcome years of Republican dominance in Georgia, starting with Abrams’ candidacy. She hoped to become the first black female governor in U.S. history as she ran against Republican Brian Kemp. They were competing to replace term-limited Republican Nathan Deal.

Abrams is a 44-year-old Atlanta attorney, former lawmaker and moonlighting romance novelist.

Kemp, a 54-year-old businessman and veteran secretary of state, is vying to maintain the GOP’s hold on a state that is nearing presidential battleground status courtesy of its growth and diversity. Republicans have won every Georgia governor’s race since 2002.

The VoteCast survey showed Abrams with a sizable advantage over Kemp among voters under age 45. Voter ages 45 and older leaned toward Kemp. Black voters and Hispanic voters favored Abrams. White voters overall were more likely to support Kemp. Whites without a college degree supported Kemp. Similarly, white college graduates were more likely to support Kemp.

In other races, two Republican members of Congress faced strong Democratic challengers in metro Atlanta districts long considered safe for the GOP.

Republicans, meanwhile, worked to secure the GOP hold on not only the governorship but all statewide offices. Democrats have been shut out of statewide elected jobs since 2010. And Republican incumbents on the utility-regulating Public Service Commission ran amid an outcry over spiraling costs for the Plant Vogtle nuclear plant expansion.

Top Issues

Top issues for Georgia voters included health care and immigration, each chosen by roughly a quarter of those surveyed. Other issues of concern to Georgia voters were the economy (2 in 10), gun policy (nearly 1 in 10), and terrorism (less than 1 in 10).

Voter Julia King touched on both in an Election Day interview. “Health, I think, is a right that everyone should enjoy,” said King, 20, a college student in Decatur. “And no matter your religion, your gender or immigration status or where you fall on the socio economic ladder.”

Voter Nicole Whatley said in an Election Day interview that she disliked President Donald Trump’s rhetoric on immigration. However Trump supporter Cindy West said at a recent rally that she supported Trump’s immigration stance. “I don’t want to be a state that gives sanctuary to illegals,” West said.

State Of The Economy

Voters have a positive view of the nation’s current economic outlook — about 7 in 10 said the nation’s economy is good, compared with a third who said it’s not good.

A strong economy was a selling point used by Trump as he campaigned around the nation for Kemp and other candidates.

“I work at a small business and it’s really important for me and my boss, who owns the business, that our taxes stay low so we can stay operating,” said Kemp supporter Ryan Henschel, an 18-year-old casting his first ballot.

Economic inequality was on the mind of some voters supporting Democrats. Brian Sherman, 75, of the Atlanta area community of Decatur, said he was voting for Democrats to address that issue.

Trump Factor

For nearly half of Georgia voters, Trump was not a factor they considered while casting their votes. By comparison, a quarter said a reason for their vote was to express support for Trump, and roughly a quarter more said they voted to express opposition to Trump.

Voters in Georgia had mixed views of Trump: half said they approve of how he is handling his job as president, about the same as those who said they disapprove of Trump.

“I think that Trump has promoted fear and bigotry in this country and really enabled the rise of fascism and I think today is an opportunity to turn that tide,” voter Lena Kotler, in Decatur, said Tuesday.

West, on the other hand, ran through a list of issues that aligned with Trump positions.

“I’m concerned about the Supreme Court,” West said, “I’m anti-abortion, so that is always at the top of the list, and I want to build the wall.”

Staying At Home

In Georgia, three-fourths of registered voters who chose not to vote in the midterm election were younger than 45. A wide share of those who did not vote — 8 in 10 — did not have a college degree.

About as many nonvoters were Democrats (a third) as Republicans (a third).