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Personal and national factors collide in tight Georgia Senate race — CBS News Battleground Tracker poll

Economy, character shaping heated Georgia races
Economy, character shaping heated Georgia races 02:12

It's the personal vs. the partisan in Georgia's Senate race, where the candidates are close in support, but voters' rationales for supporting each of them are quite different. Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock has better favorable ratings and character measures, while GOP challenger Herschel Walker's voters have eyes on Washington and a chance for a Republican Senate.

In all, the new  CBS News Battleground Tracker poll in Georgia shows incumbent Warnock with a slight two-point edge over Walker.

Warnock is boosted by higher ratings on measures like how he handles himself personally, having the right experience and being a good role model. Fewer voters see Walker those ways — including some of his own backers — but his supporters do think of their vote as one against the Biden presidency, and one to help Republicans get Senate control


Most Georgia registered voters say they like how Warnock handles himself, and most also say he has strong moral character, is a good role model, has the right experience and is honest and truthful. 

Fewer than half of Georgia voters say Walker shares these characteristics, and most dislike how Walker handles himself personally — including one in five of his own supporters. 

Georgia voters are particularly critical about Walker's level of experience, as only about a quarter of them — and fewer than half of Walker's own voters — think he has the right experience. 


Walker's supporters say they aren't voting for him mainly because they like Walker; instead most say they are voting for him either to oppose Warnock or because Walker is the Republican Party's nominee.


Warnock has positive job approval ratings from Georgia voters. Most Georgia voters disapprove of the job Joe Biden is doing, but disappointment with the sitting president does not seem to reflect negatively on Warnock. That may be because fewer than half of Georgia voters say Warnock agrees with Biden too much on issues.


But among Walker backers, there's a national focus: most see their vote as one to oppose Joe Biden. Control of the Senate looms large for both sides, but this is particularly true of Walker voters.


The appeal of putting Republicans into the majority may override the fact that Walker's supporters are less enthusiastic about their candidate than Warnock's supporters are. More than a third say they wish that the Republican Party had nominated someone different. But despite those misgivings, nine in 10 Walker supporters say they would not consider voting for Warnock.

Much like the coalition that gave Democrats statewide wins here in 2020, Warnock leads among women overall, voters under 45, Black voters, and both liberals and moderates. 

In this highly polarized race, Walker also gets the overwhelming support of members of his own party, (though not quite as strong as Warnock from Democrats). He's also leading among older voters, both White men and White women, conservatives, and narrowly among independents.

Warnock is getting the support of nine in 10 Black voters, and eight in 10 Black voters say issues of race will play a very important part in their vote this year. 

Most Black voters say it's Warnock who will support policies that will help Black people, and that Warnock comes closer to sharing their own views on race in America. 

Most Black voters in Georgia have a negative view of race relations in their state, and nearly all say racism is a major problem both in America's past and in America today.


As in the rest of the country, the economy and inflation are at the top of voters' minds in Georgia, and these are issues that favor the Republicans. Most voters who say the economy and inflation are very important issues are voting for Walker, as are most voters who say higher prices have been a financial hardship for them.


Meanwhile, the issue of abortion is motivating Democrats — who put it at the top of the list in terms of importance — and that helps Warnock. A narrow majority feel abortion should be legal in Georgia in all or most cases, and most want their elected officials to protect abortion access. Georgia voters overwhelmingly think Warnock would protect abortion access and that Walker would restrict it. 

Those who say abortion is very important to their vote are choosing Warnock over Walker by two to one.


The Race for governor: Kemp leads Abrams

Most Georgia voters have a positive view of how things are going in the Peach State, and this is benefiting incumbent Governor Brian Kemp in his bid for reelection.


In a rematch of their 2018 race, Kemp leads Democrat Stacey Abrams by six points among likely voters overall, and by a wide margin of 30 points among those voters who feel things in Georgia are going well. 


Georgia voters' positive views about their state are a sharp contrast to American voters' negative views about the state of the country. Nationally, that's a drag on Democrats.


A majority of Georgia voters also feel their state's economy is at least somewhat good and Kemp is leading among those voters. 

At the same time, Kemp also does well among those most adversely impacted by inflation. Georgia voters who say higher prices have been a hardship for them are backing Kemp over Abrams by a large margin. 

Kemp has an overall positive job approval rating, and more than half of Georgia voters like the way he handles himself personally. 

Kemp has a bit of crossover appeal. About a quarter of Warnock voters approve of Kemp's job as governor (higher than the one in ten Kemp voters who think Warnock is doing a good job in the Senate). And about one in 10 Warnock supporters plan to vote for Kemp.


Kemp's stand on the 2020 election, when he resisted pressure from then-President Donald Trump to overturn the state's election results, does not appear to have hurt him much within his own party. Two-thirds of Republicans feel Kemp agrees with Trump the right amount, and they prefer Kemp's approach to election and voting issues to Abrams' by a wide margin.


But most Republicans don't think the 2020 election matter should be investigated. Nearly eight in 10 Republicans do not think the investigation into whether Trump and his associates tried to overturn Georgia's 2020 presidential election results is justified. Georgia voters overall, however, think it is. 


Other factors in the race for governor

Independents: Most Georgia independents feel things are going pretty well in the state, and this is boosting Kemp's standing with this group. A slim majority approve of the job he is doing, and more like the way he handles himself personally than feel that way about Abrams. Abrams won the support of independents in 2018 in her first run for governor.


The GOP base: Nearly all self-identified Republicans are backing Kemp. And while most Georgia Republicans are happy with their party's nominees for both Senate and governor, more are glad about Kemp than they are about Walker.


To date, Kemp has not received the endorsement of former President Trump, but he is getting the backing of nine in 10 Trump 2020 voters in the state, similar to the level of support Walker is getting. 

Abortion: The issue is helping Abrams, but it's not enough right now to push her ahead of Kemp. She holds a wide lead among Georgia voters who say abortion is a very important issue for them, but issues like the economy and crime are important to more voters, and Kemp leads big among those groups. 

Voting and election issues: Abrams has made voting and election issues a focus of her political campaigns, but when Georgia voters are asked who would do a better job on this issue, she runs even with Kemp.


Confidence in the vote?

Most Georgia voters are at least somewhat confident their vote this year will be recorded and counted properly, but Republicans are less so, with just over a quarter saying they are "very confident".


Some have speculated that doubts about the vote count could diminish turnout, but that doesn't appear to be happening here. Georgia Republicans who believe there was widespread fraud in Georgia in 2020 express less confidence in the state counting votes this year, but they are as likely as those who think there was little or no voter fraud in 2020 to say they'll definitely vote this November.

The Senate debate

Warnock and Walker are expected to face-off in a debate next month, and most Georgia voters think it's at least somewhat important that the candidates have a debate. Republicans place less importance on the candidates debating than Democrats do.

This is a reversal of what we saw in Pennsylvania, where Republicans, who express some doubts about Democratic Senate candidate John Fetterman's health, place more importance on a debate than Democrats. 


This CBS News/YouGov Battleground Tracker survey was conducted with a statewide representative sample of 1,178 registered voters in Georgia interviewed between September 14-19, 2022. The sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, education and geographic region based on the U.S. Census Current Population Survey, as well as to 2020 presidential vote. The margin of error is ±4.0 points. 


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