March 31, 2020 — A new Battleground Connect tracking poll of the Georgia Senate special election race finds Rep. Doug Collins (R-Gainesville) beginning to pull away from the jungle primary field. According to their one-night flash poll (March 24; 1,025 likely Georgia jungle primary voters held concurrently with the Nov. 3 general election), Collins has opened up a 16-point advantage over the top Democrat and expands to a full 20-point margin over appointed incumbent Kelly Loeffler (R). The Battleground Connect survey finds Collins recording 34 percent support followed by businessman Matt Lieberman (D), son of former Connecticut senator and 2000 Democratic vice-presidential nominee Joe Lieberman, with 18 percent and Sen. Loeffler only posting 14 percent preference. The remaining candidates, Baptist minister Raphael Warnock (D) and former US attorney Ed Tarver (D) record 13 and 5 percent, respectively.
This latest track is one of four March polls that Battleground conducted. All had 1,025 respondent sampling universes and each were one-night surveys. In their first poll, conducted on March 7, Rep. Collins’ margin over Sen. Loeffler was 29-20 percent, with Democrats Lieberman, Warnock, and Tarver trailing consecutively with 16, 12, and 5 percentage point support. Since that time, there has been a net 11-point drop in support for Loeffler vis-à-vis her position against Rep. Collins.
Additionally, Sen. Loeffler’s personal favorability index has also dropped precipitously throughout the survey series. Originally, the March 7 poll found that 38.5 percent of the Georgia electorate had a positive opinion of the appointed senator while virtually the same number held a negative impression (37.8 percent). The latest March 24 poll produced a much different finding.
In this most recent flash study, Loeffler’s positive number (combining those with a very favorable impression and a somewhat favorable one) reaches only 26.8 percent, while the combined negative (very unfavorable/somewhat unfavorable) is a whopping 53.6 percent. The spread represents a net drop of 27.5 percentage points within the month.
Though the Battleground survey series did not report about reasoning behind the respondents’ answers, it is clear from the timing that the bad publicity Sen. Loeffler received over selling millions of dollars of stocks just after receiving the first major coronavirus briefing is likely why her numbers have dropped so quickly and significantly.
On the other hand, Rep. Collins’ numbers that started at 40.5 percent positive and 35.0 percent negative within the general election sample. At the end of the four-part series, three weeks later, saw his ratio remain virtually constant but slightly better, at 44.2 to 33.8 percent.
This poll clearly reveals danger signals for Sen. Loeffler particularly with regard to the stock selling issue. Her negative score will become even further exaggerated when more publicity surrounds the transactions and points out that her husband, Jeffrey Sprecher, is the chairman of the New York Stock Exchange.
Because this race is months away due to the primary running concurrently with the general election, however, it is difficult to forecast its twists and turns particularly in light of what may or may not happen in relation to the COVID-19 aftermath.