What we know about Georgia voters ahead of Senate exit



CNN

In the last two years, the eyes of the political world have returned to Georgia.

And for the second time in two years, voters in this key state will choose their senator in a runoff election that this time will determine whether Democrats extend their 50-50 majority.

Early data shows that voters are not tired of their civic duty.

Heading into Tuesday’s Senate vote between Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker, nearly 1.5 million Georgians have voted early after only about a week. Black voters have so far made up nearly a third of early voters, while more than a quarter of voters so far are under the age of 50.

About 300,000 Georgians have voted early each day this week — setting records for the largest single-day early voting percentage in state history. Early voting for the referendum ended Friday.

Georgians had just five mandatory days of early voting this year, compared to three weeks during the last runoff and last month’s general election. All but 22 counties also chose not to allow early voting last Saturday and Sunday.

Overall, turnout in 2022 was up slightly from the 2018 midterm elections, but down more than 21% from the 2020 general election.

While midterm voters typically skew older and whiter, turnout data from the Georgia Secretary of State’s office show that in 2022 midterm voters in Georgia were older and whiter than they have been in the last four elections, including the 2018 midterms. These voters tend to lean up by Republicans. The fact that Warnock not only forced a runoff but also narrowly led Walker in the first round of voting last month suggests he had the support of independents and some Republican voters, political scientists told CNN.

“The key for Warnock was that, according to the exit polls, he won the independent vote by quite a large margin,” said Alan Abramowitz, a political scientist at Emory University in Atlanta. “And that was enough to pull him through. In the circuit, I think he’s going to have to do that as well.”

CNN’s exit polls of voters in Georgia in the November election show that the share of independent voters shrank 4 percentage points compared to 2020. However, independent voters were 24% of the electorate, which Warnock won by 11 points, according to CNN’s exit polls.

A slightly larger share of white voters and smaller shares of black, Asian, and Latino voters cast ballots in 2022 compared to Georgia’s previous three midterm elections and runoffs. Black voter turnout was the lowest of any election in Georgia since the 2018 midterm elections.

A 2021 CNN exit poll showed Warnock winning 93% of black voters in Georgia’s last runoff election, a 6-point improvement over the November 2020 general election.

Black voters’ share of Georgia’s electorate increased in the 2021 runoff election, when Warnock faced Senator Kelly Loeffler after neither received a majority of the vote in the 2020 general election. Black voters made up 28% of the electorate in Georgia in this runoff, slightly higher than their share in the 2020 general election. Black voter turnout was highest when Stacey Abrams, a Democrat, first ran against the incumbent. Brian Kemp, a Republican, as governor in 2018.

Voters in the 2022 midterms were also older. Georgians over 50 represented 59% of voters this year, a new high since 2018. The share of voters under 30, meanwhile, fell to 11%, the lowest point since 2018.

Exit polls show that this year Warnock was able to maintain the improvements he made in the 2021 by-election with the youngest voters and those in urban areas. He won 68% of the 18-24 vote in the 2021 runoff—a 16-point improvement over Democrats in the 2020 general election. He also won the support of 67% of urban voters in the 2021 ballot, 4 points more than the Democrats’ share in 2020. Warnock won 69% of 18-24 year olds and 68% of urban voters in last month’s general election.

Last month’s election was unusual in that more than 17,000 Georgians skipped the Senate race at the top of the ballot but voted for governor.

“We’re not absolutely sure, but it’s highly likely that those voters are likely to be Republicans,” said Amy Steigerwalt, a political science professor at Georgia State University.

There were also Kemp voters this year who crossed the aisle to vote for Warnock and then voted for the rest of the Republican ticket, Steigerwalt said. Kemp received 2.1 million votes, about 200,000 more than Walker.

The big question about this runoff is how Walker will fare running on his own and without a chance for Republicans to regain control of the Senate, Abramowitz told CNN.

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