The Runoff Report: All about GA runoff polling

Republicans have secured 50 seats in the next U.S. Senate compared to Democrats’ 48 (including two independents who caucus with them). Control of the next Senate comes down to Georgia’s runoff elections. In The Runoff Report, we provide the latest on each race and the fight for Senate control.

SurveyUSA released new poll results for the regular and special runoff elections. The poll had a credibility interval (similar to a margin of error, but for nonprobability samples) of +/- 5.1 percentage points. 

Regular election poll results

The regular election poll showed Jon Ossoff with 51% and David Perdue with 46%. The 5-percentage-point margin is just within the poll’s credibility interval. A late November poll from SurveyUSA showed Ossoff with 50% and Perdue with 48%. 

Some demographic breakdowns from the more recent poll:

  • Democrats: 97% Ossoff, 2% Perdue
  • Republicans: 93% Perdue, 5% Ossoff
  • Independents: 53% Ossoff, 34% Perdue
  • White: 67% Perdue, 31% Ossoff
  • Black: 90% Ossoff, 6% Perdue
  • Hispanic: 52% Ossoff, 45% Perdue
  • Loeffler runoff voters: 95% Perdue, 3% Ossoff
  • Warnock runoff voters: 96% Ossoff, 4% Perdue

This election is for a full six-year term ending January 2027. Perdue was first elected in 2014. Ossoff ran against Karen Handel (R) in the 6th Congressional District special election in 2017.

Click here for more coverage of the regular election.

Special election poll results

The special election poll showed Raphael Warnock slightly ahead of Kelly Loeffler, 52%-45%. This was the same result as SurveyUSA’s late November poll. 

Some demographic breakdowns from the more recent poll:

  • Democrats: 97% Warnock, 2% Loeffler
  • Republicans: 92% Loeffler, 5% Warnock
  • Independents: 54% Warnock, 36% Loeffler
  • White: 66% Loeffler, 30% Warnock
  • Black: 90% Warnock, 8% Loeffler
  • Hispanic: 53% Warnock, 45% Loeffler
  • Perdue runoff voters: 94% Loeffler, 4% Warnock
  • Ossoff runoff voters: 96% Warnock, 3% Loeffler

The special election will fill the remainder of the term Johnny Isakson (R) won in 2016. He resigned in Dec. 2019, and Gov. Brian Kemp (R) appointed Loeffler, co-owner of the WNBA team Atlanta Dream. Warnock is senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church. The winner will complete the term ending in January 2023. 

Click here for more coverage of the special election.

A word (or several) on polling

SurveyUSA stated the following caveat along with the results above:

SurveyUSA urges consumers of this research to reflect on how unfamiliar the footing is for anyone attempting to measure what is happening in Georgia as Bulldogs hang Christmas lights during a pandemic and the Republican President is at war with the Republican Governor and the state’s Republican Secretary of State. It is possible that Democrats capture both Senate seats, and Chuck Schumer dances a jig, but it is equally possible Democrats flip neither or just 1 of the seats, in which case Biden inherits a divided, not united legislative branch. Just 18% of Perdue and Loeffler voters have “full confidence” their runoff vote will be counted accurately, compared to 67% of Ossoff and Warnock voters. How this astonishing 4:1 disparity in the very underpinning of Democracy will affect turnout in a pandemic is unknowable.

Politico‘s Steven Shepard wrote that most major pollsters are staying out of the runoffs due partly to the timing of the elections:

With the elections being held on Jan. 5, the final two weeks of the race are coinciding with the Christmas and New Year’s holidays — typically a time when pollsters refrain from calling Americans on the phone. The voters who would answer a telephone poll or participate in an internet survey over the holidays might be meaningfully different from those who wouldn’t, which would skew the results.

Most major public pollsters are choosing not to field surveys over that time period, but the four campaigns don’t have a choice in the matter. The closing stretch of the races represents their final chances to shift resources or make changes to the television and digital advertising — decisions that will be made using multiple data streams, including polling.

SurveyUSA’s two polls are the only ones featured in the “Polls” sections of our runoff election coverage. They are not the only polls released in the races, but they are the ones that meet our inclusion criteria. We do not provide individual coverage of polls that use interactive voice response (IVR) or that do not disclose the questions asked of respondents, among other things. 

We do, however, factor a larger number of polls into the Ballotpedia Power Index (BPI). The index is an election forecasting tool that factors in polling averages from RealClearPolitics and share prices on PredictIt to project the overall chances of each candidate winning election. Click here for the regular election BPI and here for the special election BPI.

Today: Election results in Georgia’s Retained Pivot Counties

Yesterday, we broke down election results in Georgia’s three Reverse-Pivot Counties (those that voted for John McCain (R) in 2008 and Mitt Romney (R) in 2012 and then for Hillary Clinton (D) in 2016). Here we highlight Georgia’s Pivot Counties—those that voted for Barack Obama (D) in 2008 and 2012, then Trump in 2016.

Georgia has five Pivot Counties: Baker, Dooly, Peach, Quitman, and Twiggs. Trump won all five again in 2020, making them Retained Pivot Counties. Obama’s average margin of victory across these counties in 2008 was 5.3 percentage points. In 2020, Trump’s average margin of victory was 8.7 points.

The five counties favored Republican Senate candidates in 2016 and 2020. Sen. Isakson’s (R) average margin of victory in these counties in 2016 was 13.1 percentage points, higher than Trump’s average margin of 5.2 percentage points that year. In 2020, the counties favored Perdue by an average margin of 9.7 percentage points. In the special election—which had 20 candidates, including six Republicans and eight Democrats—the counties favored Republicans by an average 8.8 percentage points.