Gov. Nathan Deal has a healthy advantage as he prepares to ask voters for a second term, but uneasiness over the economy could leave an opening for his Democratic rival. And the wild race for a U.S. Senate seat remains just as wide open as expected.
An Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll of 802 registered voters showed Deal with 47 percent support in a head-to-head matchup against 38 percent for state Sen. Jason Carter, his likely Democratic opponent.
Deal’s approval rating hovered around 54 percent, and a plurality of Democrats gave him high marks. But fewer than one-third of voters said their finances were better off than they were five years ago, and Carter polled strongly among younger voters and those who live in metro Atlanta.
The contest to succeed retiring U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss remains muddled with no clear front-runner. The AJC poll found that at least 40 percent of voters either offered no answer or said they had never heard of the candidate when polled on four of the highest-profile Republicans and the leading Democrat in the contest.
The lone exception is Republican Karen Handel, a former Georgia secretary of state who was narrowly defeated by Deal in 2010 in the GOP gubernatorial runoff. She had slightly higher favorability ratings than the rest, at 39 percent, but also a 24 percent unfavorable rating that was among the highest of the Senate candidates.
“It seems to me like pretty much anybody’s race with the favorability numbers being pretty similar,” said pollster Seth Brohinksy, who conducted the survey.
Deal’s election hopes likely hinge on Georgia’s economy, and the poll results offer divergent findings. Some 59 percent of voters said they were satisfied with the way things are going in Georgia today. Yet 58 percent characterized the state’s economy as either “not so good” or “poor.”
The results show Carter must work to woo fellow Democrats. About one-third of Carter’s supporters approve of the governor’s performance, and one-fifth of Democrats polled signaled they haven’t yet supported Carter.
Carter’s support among nonwhite voters, a traditional stronghold for his party, was only at 60 percent. Among voters in metro Atlanta, he logged 54 percent of their vote, and a plurality of voters who earn less than $50,000.