Walker has 2-Point in Edge in GA Senate Poll

Partisanship may overcome poor candidate quality.

SANDY SPRINGS, GA – MARCH 06: “I’m a Georgia Voter” stickers are seen at a polling station in St Andrew Presbyterian Church March 6, 2012 in Sandy Springs, Georgia. Ten states, including Georgia, hold caucuses and primaries today for voters to pick their choices for the Republican presidential nominee. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Emerson College Polling reports their newest results: Georgia 2022: Walker Holds Two-Point Lead Over Warnock in Tight Senate Race; Kemp Leads Abrams by Four.

The latest Emerson College Polling survey of the Georgia general election finds Senator Raphael Warnock trailing his Republican opponent, Herschel Walker by two points, 44% to 46%. Four percent plan to vote for someone else and 7% are undecided. Regardless of whom they support, 53% expect the incumbent Senator Warnock to win while 47% expect Walker to win.  This reflects a tightening of the race since April, when the Emerson College poll had Walker ahead 49% to 45%.

The results for the gubernatorial contest are similar:

In the gubernatorial 2018 re-match, 48% plan to support Governor Brian Kemp, 44% plan to support Stacey Abrams, 6% plan to vote for someone else, and 2% are undecided. The majority of Georgia voters (58%) expect Kemp to win whereas 42% expect Abrams to win.

Strikingly, Walker maintains a majority positive image with the roughly half of the state’s voters.

Exactly half of Georgia voters have a very (27%) or somewhat (22%) favorable view of Herschel Walker, while 46% have a somewhat (8%) or very (38%) unfavorable view of Walker. Forty-seven percent have a very (41%) or somewhat (7%) favorable view of Senator Warnock, while 46% have a somewhat (6%) or very (40%) unfavorable view of Warnock.

This is striking given Walker’s general inability to speak coherently about politics, not to mention his poor business record and the numerous revelations about previously undisclosed children. As we move into the actual campaign season and people pay more attention we will be able to see if his massive pool of UGA football goodwill can continue to overcome these difficulties.

it is further striking how partisanship leads to almost half the state having an unfavorable view of a pastor. Such is politics.

And, of course, the overall partisan lean of the state combined with the mid-term context may be all Walker needs to win.

Overall, we are about to see how far partisan-ID combined with name recognition can overcome a very poor quality candidate.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2022, US Politics, , ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Exactly half of Georgia voters have a very (27%) or somewhat (22%) favorable view

    I always thought 50% was exactly half, not 49%, but maybe they use a different math in Georgia. As far as Walker being 2 points ahead of Warnock, I am not surprised. After all, the GOP is absolutely outraged that the FBI would have the nerve to execute a search warrant on a known criminal in possession of highly classified documents that he had denied having in his possession.

  2. @OzarkHillbilly:

    I always thought 50% was exactly half, not 49%, but maybe they use a different math in Georgia.

    I noticed that but didn’t take the time to deal with it in the post. The actual number of 49.5% (for some reason they refused to use decimals in the write-up). So, it is ultimately rounding up, but given the closeness of all of this, reporting out the 49.% would be more helpful instead of rounding.

  3. Matt Bernius says:

    Regardless of whom they support, 53% expect the incumbent Senator Warnock to win while 47% expect Walker to win.

    I’m anything but an election expert (see 2016 as a prime example), but this still makes me feel like Warnock has a strong position.

    Then again, I suspect that there might have been similar numbers going into the 2016 Presidential election. Crud.

    Also, this seems to more broadly back up something someone smart probably wrote about here regarding the behavior of partisan electorates….

    1
  4. @Matt Bernius: I would like to think that someone who is as clearly unqualified as Walker couldn’t possibly win a state that is this competitive. And yet, it seems more than plausible that the combination of partisanship (linked to an incumbent governor ahead in the polls), the mid-term environment, and Walker’s truly legendary status in the minds of a lot of Georgians could sum to his victory.

    I am really curious to see if he can continue ot skate during the real general election campaign post-Labor Day. It will be close regardless.

    4
  5. reid says:

    Even though it’s a pretty disparaging post about Walker, from what I’ve read, you’re being too kind. He seems to be unable to speak coherently about anything, and he has lied about more things than just having bonus children. Another extreme case of politics trumping reason.

  6. gVOR08 says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: The old rounding rule. 2 + 2 = 5 for sufficiently large values of 2. But they really shouldn’t have said “exactly”.

  7. @gVOR08: I concur. It was sloppy.

  8. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: It’s really a distinction without a difference but I just couldn’t pass it up. 🙂

  9. Kylopod says:

    Even before this poll, the Georgia polls have not seemed to follow the national trend. It’s been very competitive, and 538 has consistently rated the state a toss-up for months now. This is in particular contrast with Arizona, where Mark Kelly has been heavily favored by most polls. The two states would seem to be comparable, as they’re both traditionally red states which Biden won very narrowly, and in which an incumbent Democratic Senator first elected two years ago is running to keep his seat this year. Walker won the nomination earlier than Blake Masters, and his gaffes have received more media attention so far (at least nationally). And here’s a factoid I just found out: Biden actually has worse approval in AZ than GA. (Source: Morning Consult from July; I couldn’t find more recent polls.) Yet Kelly is doing consistently better than Warnock. It’s worth exploring why. I have no idea.

  10. Jen says:

    This is so frustrating. Walker is not just not a good candidate, he is a horrible candidate.

    That voters in Georgia are even entertaining the notion of voting for someone who is so clearly not up to the task is depressing AF.

    1
  11. Raoul says:

    I’m surprised Walker is doing so well. For what’s worth, in their final 2020 poll, Emerson had Warnock losing by 2 and he ended up winning by 2.

    2
  12. gVOR08 says:

    John Rogers coined the Crazification Factor saying,

    Obama vs. Alan Keyes. Keyes was from out of state, so you can eliminate any established political base; both candidates were black, so you can factor out racism; and Keyes was plainly, obviously, completely crazy. Batshit crazy. Head-trauma crazy. But 27% of the population of Illinois voted for him. They put party identification, personal prejudice, whatever ahead of rational judgement.

    Walker and Warnock are both black. Walker had to move back to GA from TX and had no political base. For Keyes “head-trauma crazy” was probably an exaggeration, it’s true of Walker. And Walker has 19 points over the Crazification Factor. This probably represents the hardening of partisanship since 2004.

    As with Keynes, nominating Walker was a cynical ploy to split the Black vote. I didn’t find any breakdown by race in the linked report. I wonder if it’s working. To get to 46% in GA I would assume it is.

    If you’re a GOP, it makes sense to vote for Walker. He will support the GOP agenda and vote the way McConnell tells him to. (Caveat – the GOP agenda is not what the MAGA voters think it is.) It’s not crazy for a Republican to vote for Walker. It’s crazy to support a party that nominates people like Walker and has their agenda. And it is crazy for any Dem or independent to vote for Walker.

    There are days I wonder if democracy is possible.

    4
  13. Kylopod says:

    @Raoul:

    I’m surprised Walker is doing so well.

    I’ve been hearing similar sentiments like this from a lot of people, and not just about this particular race. I hear people say stuff like “How can 40% of Pennsylvanians be supporting Dr. Oz?”

    Honestly, I really can’t bring myself to engage in this kind of hand-wringing, no matter what the outcome. I know it’s partly because of my political nerdishness and tendency to fall back on cold analysis. But if I come off that way, it’s not apathy, just jadedness. Yes, the situation is terrible and speaks poorly for the US. But there’s nothing particularly new about this situation. You could say the ship sailed as soon as Trump was elected, but the truth is, long before Trump we he had elected officials like Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann, Louie Gohmert, etc. And that’s not to mention the decades-long history of electing unqualified celebrities.

    I also think that a question like “How can so many Georgians support Walker?” is the wrong way of looking at it. Why would you expect an already Republican-leaning state to abandon the Republican nominee? Indeed, the fact that Warnock was able to win in the first place and may indeed win again this year is, I believe, in part a consequence of the GOP’s turn toward extremism. So this hand-wringing over how it could be even close strikes me as glass-half-empty thinking.

    I have a question for everyone: What makes a state a swing state? It’s easy to get caught up in the idea that a swing state means a state with a larger-than-normal amount of swing voters. But I don’t think that’s the case. I think what makes a state a swing state is that it’s got a roughly equal number of Democrats and Republicans, so that elections largely come down to who turns out. (By number of Democrats and Republicans, I’m not talking about party registration, which isn’t always a reliable indicator of how people vote. I’m talking about voting behavior itself.) In the end, it’s all just a numbers game. The Republican Party is nuts, we all know that, and the people who remain in the party are mostly fine continuing to support those nuts. This doesn’t change depending on where you are in the country–Republicans are Republicans regardless of whether we’re talking about a purple state like Georgia, a blue state like New York, or a red state like Tennessee. The only real difference in those states is who outnumbers whom. That’s all there is to it.

    1
  14. Kylopod says:

    @gVOR08:

    For Keyes “head-trauma crazy” was probably an exaggeration, it’s true of Walker. And Walker has 19 points over the Crazification Factor. This probably represents the hardening of partisanship since 2004.

    Even in 2004, Illinois was a much bluer state than Georgia is now. It’s true that it had an incumbent Republican Senator at the time (elected in 1998 when the sitting Democrat, Carol Moseley Braun, was having an ethics scandal), but the fact that he chose to retire rather than seek reelection is itself an indication that winning there as a Republican was an uphill battle. What stood out about the results wasn’t that Keyes lost, but that he got absolutely crushed in a historic landslide. Bush lost the state handily but still outperformed Keyes by about 40 points.

    When the GOP basically plucked Keyes out of thin air after Jack Ryan’s collapse, I’m not sure whether it was a serious attempt to win by neutralizing Obama’s advantage among the black vote (which we know is a Republican-y kind of thing to do) or they just needed a suitable sacrificial lamb.

  15. SC_Birdflyte says:

    @Jen: Georgia may learn what it’s like to have a running joke as one of its two Senators. From Sam Nunn and Wyche Fowler in one generation to Herschel Walker (good grief!).

  16. BugManDan says:

    @gVOR08:

    Walker had to move back to GA from TX and had no political base.

    I think being one of, if not the, best football player ever at UGA is probably better than the political base. Until you pick a side, no one is automatically against you (maybe GA Tech fans). And he is/was adored by UGA fans.

  17. @gVOR08:

    If you’re a GOP, it makes sense to vote for Walker. He will support the GOP agenda and vote the way McConnell tells him to.

    This is really important to explain a lot of voter behavior–they can vote for someone like Walker because it is voting for a GOP majority and voting for Warnock is going for a Democratic majority (indeed, this may well be the pivotal seat in that regard).

    A lot of folks on this site would vote for a Democratic version of Walker in a heartbeat to keep the Senate in D hands (whether they want to admit it to themselves or not),

    3
  18. @Kylopod:

    Why would you expect an already Republican-leaning state to abandon the Republican nominee?

    This. (And this is also why I harp on the flaws of the primary system).

    @BugManDan:

    I think being one of, if not the, best football player ever at UGA is probably better than the political base.

    100%

    I think people not from this part of the country are really underestimating his truly legendary status.

    3
  19. Kylopod says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    A lot of folks on this site would vote for a Democratic version of Walker in a heartbeat to keep the Senate in D hands (whether they want to admit it to themselves or not)

    If the Dems nominated a former NFL star with a known history of domestic abuse, making up parts of his resume out of whole cloth, and who is unable to speak in complete sentences, would I vote for him over one of today’s Republicans? In a heartbeat.

    But here’s the thing: the Dems don’t nominate people like that in the first place. So this hypothetical is a bit like “If my mom had wheels, she’d be a wagon.”

    9
  20. Crusty Dem says:

    @Kylopod:

    Exactly this. When democrats select a terrible candidate, it’s usually one who is terribly boring and uninspiring, not one who is nuts.

  21. DK says:

    Hmmm. A lot of extrapolation in this post and in these comments based on one poll. But okay.

    At any rate, just like this Georgia native was saying back in 2020 when we were promised Loeffler and Perdue were leading, Democrats are going to win this Senate race.

    Or Republicans are going to lose it. Take your pick. But Herschel Walker is never going to be a US senator, at least not from the state of Georgia.

  22. Thomm says:

    This has echoes of when the GOP tried running Lynn Swann for pa gov against Ed Rendell. Throw up a sports hero that will do the party bidding and hope the rubes vote based on a team record (both political team and sports team). Swann proceeded to get curb stomped. One big difference between Swann and Walker is that Swann, while a bit dumb, was friendly and likeable, while Hersch is, well, Hersch.

  23. SC_Birdflyte says:

    @BugManDan: It could be argued that Charlie Trippi and Frank Sinkwich were just as good as Walker, although they played in the era before college football teams in the South were integrated.