Georgia Polling Dichotomy

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 16, 2020 — An October polling plethora has been released in Georgia, which is becoming one of the most important 2020 election cycle states both in terms of the presidential and US Senate outcomes. As the only state featuring two US Senate races, Georgia has attracted more than its share of polling universe attention.

Quinnipiac University released new data yesterday that either is detecting a new trend or is an outlier. Their results give Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, and US Senate candidates Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock big leads in their respective races, something no other survey research firm is reporting.

The Quinnipiac poll (Oct. 8-12; 1,040 likely Georgia voters, live interview) finds Biden posting a 51-44 percent lead over President Trump, Ossoff claiming a similar 51-45 percent advantage over Sen. David Perdue (R), and Rev. Warnock outpacing both Rep. Doug Collins (R-Gainesville) and appointed Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R) by 19 and 21 percentage points (41-22-20 percent).

Six other pollsters, also surveying in October, largely see things much differently.

Polling within the same period as Quinnipiac are Survey USA, Data for Progress, and Morning Consult.

Survey USA chose exactly the same sampling period as Quinnipiac, Oct. 8-12. With a sample size of 877 likely Georgia voters also in live interviews, they see a dissimilar political landscape. While they find Biden leading in the presidential race, his margin is only two points, 48-46 percent.

The two pollsters’ Senate numbers are starkly different. S-USA finds Sen. Perdue leading Ossoff, 46-43 percent, a net nine-point variance when directly compared with Quinnipiac. The jungle primary special election race is even more disparate. While Quinnipiac projects one of the biggest leads for Warnock during the entire election cycle, S-USA finds only a four-point difference between he and Sen. Loeffler, 30-26 percent, a far cry from the Q-Poll’s 41-20 percent.

The two pollsters even see a different ballot test order. While the Q-Poll finds a Warnock-Collins-Loeffler split, Survey USA projects a virtual three-way battle among Warnock, Loeffler, and Collins. The latter poll posts Rep. Collins’ statewide support at 20 percent.

Data for Progress is a progressive left pollster, and they surveyed the Georgia electorate during a commensurate period, Oct. 8-11. Their sample was comprised of 782 likely Georgia voters contacted through an online and text approach. Their presidential result produces a dead even contest between President Trump and Biden, with each man claiming 46 percent support. They then see a 46-44 percent advantage for Sen. Perdue and find the jungle primary results very close to that of Survey USA, a 30-22-22 percent split among Rev. Warnock, Sen. Loeffler, and Rep. Collins, respectively.

Morning Consult conducted a series of state polls, of which Georgia was one, during the Oct. 2-11 period. They administer online polls through large pre-selected sampling universes. In Georgia, 1,837 likely voters were sampled during the early October period. The MC result is different than Quinnipiac’s and within the Survey USA and Data for Progress realm, though they find a different leader in the presidential race. Morning Consult sees President Trump holding a 49-47 percent edge.

Their Senate numbers are also closer to the latter two pollsters. MC finds Sen. Perdue holding a four-point lead over Ossoff, 46-42 percent. They did not test the jungle primary.

Public Policy Polling was also in the field during this relative time period, surveying 528 voters during the Oct. 8-9 period through an automated response device process. They, too, come much closer to the group result than Quinnipiac’s. PPP finds Biden holding a one-point, 47-46 percent, edge.

They are somewhat closer to the Q-Poll in the Senate races, however, but without the same margin in the Perdue contest. PPP sees Ossoff holding a slight one-point 44-43 percent advantage. In the jungle primary, however, they are much closer to Quinnipiac, finding Rev. Warnock with a 17-point lead over Sen. Loeffler and Rep. Collins, 41-24-22 percent, respectively.

Landmark Communications, a Georgia based Republican polling firm, also was in the field with a flash poll on Oct. 7 that tested 600 likely Georgia voters. Their presidential number gave President Trump a 47-45 percent lead, and Sen. Perdue held a similar 48-46 percent edge. Their jungle primary numbers gave Rev. Warnock a 38-26-23 percent result over Sen. Loeffler and Rep. Collins, placing them close to the middle of the polling spectrum. Their questionnaire listed all 19 candidates who will be on the jungle primary ballot, however, something the others did not do.

Finally, the University of Georgia, polling for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper, surveyed their sample during the Sept. 27 – Oct. 6 period and conducted 1,106 live interviews of likely Georgia voters. They also found President Trump holding a two-point, 48-46 percent, edge.

The UG poll is the most bullish for Sen. Perdue. They project him holding a 49-41 percent advantage, at the exact opposite end of the prism when compared to Quinnipiac. UG also sees a close jungle primary with Rev. Warnock leading 28-22-21 percent over Sen. Loeffler and Rep. Collins.

All of this divergent data nevertheless does allow us to arrive at some consensus conclusions. First, the presidential race, in a must-win state for President Trump, is very tight as we enter the home stretch. Second, except for the Quinnipiac numbers, the preponderance of data suggests that Sen. Perdue has at least a small lead over Ossoff.

The clearest conclusion, however, is that Rev. Warnock has secured the Democratic base and will almost assuredly finish first on Nov. 3. It is a near certainty that he will advance to a Jan. 5 runoff election with either Sen. Loeffler or Rep. Collins, and the battle for second is what’s worth watching on Nov. 3.

Though Rev. Warnock is clearly in first place, the combined Republican vote for Loeffler and Collins will exceed that of the consensus Democratic candidate, meaning the stage will be set for a very interesting runoff campaign. Additionally, depending upon how all of the other Senate races unfold, this January runoff could conceivably decide the Senate majority should the Nov. 3 vote produce a chamber division that is within one vote.

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