GOP Romp in Georgia?

Poll: Chambliss, McCain Ahead

Posted September 17, 2008 at 6:05pm

Democrats may be grasping at straws when they assert that the popularity of Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) in Georgia boosts the chances of former state Rep. Jim Martin (D) in his race against Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R).

According to a survey conducted earlier this week for Roll Call and two Georgia television stations, Martin is down 17 points to Chambliss (53 percent to 36 percent) and Obama is trailing Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) by 16 points (57 percent to 41 percent).

The poll of 684 likely voters was conducted Sept. 14-16 by the automated polling firm SurveyUSA and had a 3.8-point margin of error.

Despite Chambliss’ massive cash-on-hand advantage (the first-term Senator reported more than $4 million in his June Federal Election Commission report), national Democrats have shown an interest in playing in the Peach State Senate race in part because they believed Obama could boost turnout among the state’s large black population.

About 28.5 percent of Georgia’s population is black. According to exit polls from the 2004 election, black voters made up 25 percent of the electorate in Georgia. This week’s SurveyUSA poll results are based on a 26 percent black turnout model in November.

The poll shows Georgia to be a very polarized state racially when it comes to the presidential and Senate elections. Obama was the choice of 94 percent of black voters and McCain was the choice of 77 percent of white voters. Chambliss was the choice of 70 percent of white voters, while Martin was picked by 84 percent of black voters.

Interestingly, Martin earned his party’s nomination by beating out DeKalb County Chief Executive Officer Vernon Jones, who is black, in a Democratic primary runoff in August. In that contest and throughout the crowded Democratic primary, Martin had the backing of the state and national Democratic establishment.

Chambliss appears to poll better among men (55 percent) than women (51 percent). Martin took 38 percent of the vote among women and 33 percent among men. The poll also found that Martin performed best in and around Atlanta, where he and Chambliss tied at 44 percent of the vote, but Chambliss dominated Martin in the northwestern, southern and eastern areas of Georgia.

Statewide, the Libertarian candidate, Allen Buckley, took 8 percent of the overall vote and appears to pull more votes from Martin than from Chambliss.

The SurveyUSA polling memo notes that “to the extent Buckley’s support collapses closer to Election Day, the contest between Chambliss and Martin could be closer than shown here.”

Chambliss is entering the homestretch of his re-election campaign with a high net approval rating, according to SurveyUSA. Forty-six percent of voters had a favorable opinion of Chambliss, while just 22 percent had an unfavorable opinion; 32 percent said they were neutral or had no opinion of Chambliss.

Martin was viewed favorably by 31 percent of voters and unfavorably by 23 percent of voters. Forty-seven percent of voters were neutral or had no opinion of Martin.

While other public polls have shown Chambliss with a wide lead in the race, Democrats were excited by an early August poll sponsored by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee that showed Martin just 6 points behind Chambliss in the days after his primary runoff battle. That poll showed Chambliss with a mere 37 percent approval rating.

Chambliss’ campaign dismissed the DSCC poll but just two weeks later released the first television ads of the Senator’s reelection bid.

Outside the Senate and presidential contests, the SurveyUSA poll also found that Congress has a paltry 13 percent approval rating and 71 percent disapproval rating. Forty-one percent of Georgia voters approved of the job President Bush is doing, while 53 percent disapproved.

The poll, which was taken this week as news of the nation’s latest economic woes was hitting airways, found that 46 percent of Georgia voters say Congress should focus on the economy ahead of all other issues. Gasoline prices came in second place, with 13 percent of voters ranking it as their No. 1 issue, and terrorism came in third place with 11 percent of voters rating it as their top priority.

Forty-one percent of Georgia voters said oil companies are responsible for the high price of gasoline, while 15 percent said the president is responsible and 13 percent said Congress is responsible.