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Poll: Warnock Slightly Ahead in Georgia’s U.S. Senate Runoff

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Artist's interpretation of map of Georgia
The results of the Georgia runoff will determine the final balance of power in the U.S. Senate.

12/05/2022

Media contacts: Emily Gowdey-Backus, Emily_GowdeyBackus@uml.edu and Nancy Cicco, Nancy_Cicco@uml.edu

Incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock has an apparent lead over GOP challenger Herschel Walker in the race that will decide the final balance of power in the chamber, according to a poll released Monday by UMass Lowell’s Center for Public Opinion

The survey found Warnock leads 51% to Walker’s 46% among 1,300 respondents identifying as likely voters in the Georgia runoff election to be held tomorrow, Tuesday, Dec. 6. Less than .5% of respondents said they would be voting for another candidate, which is not possible under Georgia’s election law, while 2% said they were undecided. 

The poll, conducted between Friday, Nov. 18 and Monday, Nov. 28, has a margin of error of ± 3.2 percentage points. Also of note is a gender gap among respondents: Walker garnered more support among men by a margin of 6 points, 52% to Warnock’s 46%, but Warnock holds a 13-point advantage among women at 55% to Walker’s 42%.

“This race could go either way, but Herschel Walker is in trouble,” said political science Associate Professor John Cluverius, the center’s director of survey research. “Voters know the economy is rough, but a spate of scandals has destroyed Walker’s favorables with voters. In a normal, textbook election, Warnock would look like a lame duck walking. Instead, he’s been able to avoid blame for rising prices and keep voters – who are skeptical of Biden but don’t like Trump – in his corner. Right now, it looks like Warnock is in the driver’s seat.”

Other poll findings bode well for Warnock. Forty-nine percent of respondents view him favorably, 45% view him unfavorably. In comparison, 39% of respondents view Walker favorably, 51% view him unfavorably. 

Georgia law mandated the runoff because neither Warnock nor Walker received more than 50% of the vote to win the seat in the midterm election held Tuesday, Nov. 8. 

Should Warnock prevail, the Democrats would increase their majority in the Senate, 51 to 49 seats, assuming independent Sens. Angus King of Maine and Bernie Sanders of Vermont continue to caucus with the Democrats. In an evenly divided Senate, Democrats would still hold the majority as Vice President Kamala Harris, in her role as president of the chamber, would possess the tie-breaking vote when needed. With 51 seats however, Democrats would have a majority of the membership of all Senate committees, making it easier to advance the president’s nominees and legislation through the chamber’s processes.  

Perceptions of Election Integrity Drive Divisions

Other survey results point to a potentially worrying trend for future orderly transfers of power. While a majority of respondents agree Donald Trump was the legitimate winner of the 2016 presidential election and Joe Biden the legitimate winner of the 2020 presidential election, the results by party identification show huge division, with majorities of both parties refusing to accept the legitimacy of the recent election victories of candidates of the opposite party. Here, 71% of Republican poll respondents said Trump probably or definitely won in 2020, and 59% of Democrats said Hilary Clinton was probably or definitely the legitimate winner of the 2016 presidential election. 

Correctly stated, Trump won the 2016 and Biden the 2020 presidential elections.

“The research on this is clear. The more people believe that an election will be stolen and that votes won’t be counted, the less they are willing to turn out to vote,” said political science Professor Joshua Dyck, director of the Center for Public Opinion. “For years, the media has covered Republicans using policies and rhetoric to keep Democrats from voting. Now, Republicans have ended up chasing their own voters from the polls.”

Respondents Weighed in on Other National Concerns:

  • Biden’s approval rating as president among likely runoff voters is 45%, while 54% disapprove of the job he is doing, for a net of -9 percentage points. Despite this, Biden performs above his approval rating in a potential rematch against Trump in the 2024 presidential election. If that election were held today, likely Georgia runoff voters give Biden an apparent lead over Trump, 47% to 43%, with 7% selecting another candidate and 3% undecided.  
  • However, Biden does worse in a hypothetical 2024 presidential matchup against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Poll results show a close race between them, with DeSantis receiving 47% of the vote and Biden receiving 46%. In that matchup, 3% said that they will vote for another candidate and 4% are undecided.
  • On the issue of abortion, 63% of survey respondents favor a right to the procedure in every state, with 37% against. This includes majorities of Democratic and independent voters, along with more than a third of Republicans.
  • On the economy, likely runoff voters are more likely to blame politicians for rising prices: 60% said cost increases are definitely or mostly the fault of politicians, while 40% said they are due to circumstances beyond the control of politicians and their policies.

Designed and analyzed by Cluverius, the nonpartisan survey was funded by the university’s Center for Public Opinion. Polling was conducted online by YouGov. The center presents events and polling on political and social issues to provide opportunities for civic engagement, experiential learning and real-world research. The center is a member of the American Association of Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) Transparency Initiative. Detailed poll results, including topline and full methodology, are available at www.uml.edu/polls

UMass Lowell is a national research university offering its students bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in business, education, engineering, fine arts, health, humanities, sciences and social sciences. UMass Lowell delivers high-quality educational programs and personal attention from leading faculty and staff, all of which prepare graduates to be leaders in their communities and around the globe. www.uml.edu