By Jim Ellis
May 25, 2017 — A new Survey USA poll (May 16-20; 700 GA-6 adults, winnowed to 549 early and likely special election voters) finds Democrat Jon Ossoff leading former Secretary of State Karen Handel (R) by the largest margin that any of the five post-primary publicly released surveys has yielded for either candidate: seven points, 51-44 percent. But, the sampling group does appear to skew Democratic.
As we know, the Georgia race has become the premier contest during this robust special election season and there is no question it will set a spending record as the most expensive US House campaign in history. Combining candidate and outside group spending, the expenditure totals will easily exceed a combined $35 million. To date, according to research that the Politico publication cited in a May 6 article, the most expensive US House contest was recorded in the 2012 Palm Beach area, Florida campaign (FL-18) between then-Rep. Allen West (R) and challenger Patrick Murphy (D), in which aggregate spending reached $29.6 million.
Democrats chose this race to make a clear stand because the once safe Republican district is showing clear signs of bending in their direction. This became clear in the presidential race when President Trump only secured a 1.5 percentage point victory margin here in a district that, heretofore, had returned big Republican spreads (Mitt Romney scored a 61-38 percent victory margin in 2012, for example).
The April 18 special primary provided evidence that the presidential result may be more than just an anomaly. With just under 194,000 people voting, a turnout rate that shatters the participation rates of all other 2017 special elections, Ossoff garnered 48 pe to attract in such a setting where their party was united behind one candidate and Republicans were split among four major competitors. Still, however, the combined GOP vote reached 51 percent of the vote just two points short of outright victory in a field of 18 candidates. This is at least five percentage points better than a Democratic candidate would be expected
It is important to note, however, that this race does not have a special election feel. To put the turnout size in perspective, the 2014 regular mid-term turnout yielded 210,504 voters, meaning the 193,981 people who cast a ballot in the April 18 special primary came close to producing a participation rate in a regular election realm.
In the four previously released post-primary polls before Survey USA’s data became public, from four different research firms, the margin between the two candidates did not exceed two percentage points (Ossoff led in three of the four). There have been significant methodological and statistical issues with some of the other polls – one Democratic poll shows a unanimous vote among the Democratic segment going to Ossoff with no undecided factor, for example, and two different surveys showed the race leader actually trailing among Independents – and the latest Survey USA study is no exception.
Because Georgia does not register voters by political party, calculations must be used to determine partisan cell segments. Based upon the district’s total voter history since it was drawn in this configuration (from the 2011 redistricting plan), it appears S-USA’s sampling universe contains too many Democrats. While it may accurately reflect the presidential campaign that found the major party candidates within two points of each other, it fails to account for the previous elections where Republicans such as former congressional incumbent Tom Price (R-Roswell) routinely topped 60 percent of the vote.
According to the S-USA sampling division, Republicans lead Democrats in party ID 32-27 percent, and actually trail among those who say they lean to one party or the other. Among Independents, the split is only a two-point differential among those who say they lean toward a particular party even though they don’t identify themselves as a member of either. Again, this breakdown does accurately reflect the most recent presidential contest, but not the aggregate recent voting history.
The 6th District is a northern Atlanta suburban seat comprised from parts of Fulton, Cobb, and DeKalb Counties. It is one of the most highly educated districts in the country, with a 33 percent minority complexion. The three main minority segments, African American, Hispanic, and Asian, divide equivalently with each group holding approximately 11 percent of the district’s population.
The special general election is scheduled for June 20.