Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 13, 2016


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 13, 2016

On January 13, 1733, the ship Ann (sometimes spelled “Anne”) sailed into Charles Town harbor and was met by South Carolina Governor Robert Johnson and the Speaker of the Commons House of Assembly. Aboard the ship were James Oglethorpe and the first 114 colonists of what would become Georgia. Later that year they would land at a high bluff on the Savannah River and found the city of Savannah.

On January 13, 1959, Ernest Vandiver was inaugurated as Governor of Georgia.

On January 13, 1966, President Lyndon Baines Johnson appointed Robert C. Weaver head of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), making Weaver the first African-American cabinet secretary in U.S. History.

On January 13, 1982, Hank Aaron was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.

This day in 1987 saw the inauguration of Governor Joe Frank Harris to his second term in office.

On January 13, 1998, Governor Zell Miller presented his $12.5 billion FY1999 budget to the Georgia General Assembly, including $105,000 to provide CDs of classical music for every baby born in the state. According to the New York Times,

“No one questions that listening to music at a very early age affects the spatial, temporal reasoning that underlies math and engineering and even chess,” the Governor said[]. “Having that infant listen to soothing music helps those trillions of brain connections to develop.”

Mr. Miller said he became intrigued by the connection between music and child development at a series of recent seminars sponsored by the Education Commission of the States. As a great-grandfather and the author of “They Hear Georgia Singing” (Mercer University Press, 1983), an encyclopedia of the state’s musical history, Mr. Miller said his fascination came naturally.

He said that he had a stack of research on the subject, but also that his experiences growing up in the mountains of north Georgia had proved convincing.

“Musicians were folks that not only could play a fiddle but they also were good mechanics,” he said. “They could fix your car.”

Legislators, as is their wont, have ideas of their own.

“I asked about the possibility of some Charlie Daniels or something like that,” said Representative Homer M. (Buddy) DeLoach, a Republican from Hinesville, “but they said they thought the classical music has a greater positive impact.”

“Having never studied those impacts too much,” Mr. DeLoach added, “I guess I’ll just have to take their word for that at the moment.”

In 2003, on January 13 at the Georgia Dome, Sonny Perdue took the oath of office as Georgia’s second Republican Governor, the first since Reconstruction.

Remember this fact for a couple minutes: a little over two years ago, on January 10, 2013, the Atlanta Journal-Consistution released a poll of the Georgia Governor’s race that showed Nathan Deal with 47 percent to 38 percent for Jason Carter. The nine-point Deal advantage was as close as the AJC polling firm would come all year to correctly predicting the point spread in the General Election.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Committee Meetings

At 11 AM today, Governor Deal will give his State of the State address in the House Chamber.

Polling and Casinos

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has been squawking about it’s “Exclusive Poll” for nearly a week, touting various results, including what it says the poll shows about Georgians’ attitudes toward casino gambling.

The poll conducted by the national firm Abt SRBI for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution showed 62 percent of registered voters favor legalizing casino gambling to support the HOPE scholarship, and 72 percent say Georgia should create a medical marijuana harvest and distribution system. Fifty-three percent believe lawmakers should pass a so-called religious liberty bill and 39 percent support “merit pay” for teachers.

Before I dive in a little more deeply, let us remember two things. First, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s best poll in terms of being close to the eventual result was in January 2014, eleven months from the election and they never got closer. Second, they’re using the same polling firm that embarrassed them in 2014.

The problem for analysis of this poll is that there aren’t any comparable polls out there. Or are there? I haven’t seen any directly comparable surveys, but the AJC writes that Georgia voters gie the same approval rating to President Obama and Governor Deal.

Startlingly enough, Georgia voters gave President Barack Obama and Gov. Nathan Deal roughly the same approval rating.


As Obama enters the final year of his presidency, Georgia voters are surprisingly split on the Democrat’s performance. Some 49 percent of Georgians gave him a favorable rating and 47 percent disapproved. That comes after years of dismal poll results that had his job approval rating hovering below the 45 percent mark.

An even 50 percent of Georgia voters approved of Deal’s job performance as he begins his sixth year in office, with roughly one-third of the electorate signaling they weren’t fans of the Republican’s track record.

Deal fared much better than Obama, though, when it came to attracting support across party lines. About 40 percent of Democrats gave him high marks, while roughly 90 percent of Republicans disapprove of Obama’s work.

I’ve gotten my hands on the polling memo that describes the results of a professional survey by McLaughlin & Associates. If you recall, McLaughlin was the pollster who guided Governor Nathan Deal’s 2014 reelection campaign.

Brian Robinson of the Deal campaign told me:

“We knew a few of those undecideds would come our way and we’d end up at 52 or 53 percent. We were able to tell media early on Election Day the exact margin of victory before the polls closed. They looked at me as if I’d lost my mind or was in denial. Jason Carter’s people honestly believed that Deal winning on Election Day was the ‘least likely outcome.’ Because of John McLaughlin, we knew it was the most likely outcome. We had complete confidence in the numbers he was giving because, with us, he’d always been right.”

The final results were 52.8 percent for Nathan Deal and 44.8 percent for Jason Carter, so McLaughlin’s prediction, one week out, of 52-44 was right on the money.

Here’s what the poll by McLaughlin had to say about the relative approve/disapprove ratings for the President and Georgia’s Governor.

President Obama’s job rating is divided and polarized. He has a net negative job rating, 52% disapprove to 46% approve. Forty-three percent (43%) “strongly disapprove.”

On the other hand, Governor Deal has a greater than two to one net positive job rating, 61% approve to 30% approve.

Here are two tables comparing the results of the polls:

President Obama Approve Disapprove
McLaughlin 46 52


Governor Deal Approve Disapprove
McLaughlin 61 30

There is a dramatic difference in Governor Deal’s Favorable/Unfavorable rating between the two polls, and there is a dramatic difference in the assessment of each polling firm’s performance in the 2014 Gubernatorial race. For my money, I give much higher credibility to McLaughlin’s numbers in an area – measuring Governor Nathan Deal’s performance in Georgia – where McLaughlin was dead accurate in the last election.

Ultimately, the difference in Approve/Disapprove numbers makes me question how well other aspects of the AJC/ABT-SRBI poll reflect public opinion on issues like casino gambling.

The McLaughlin poll was commissioned by a group supporting passage of Marsy’s Law, a Constitutional Amendment that aims to give crime victims greater rights within the criminal justice system. The poll also shows that 81% of Georgia voters would approve the Marsy’s Law Constitutional Amendment with 12% opposed, with the numbers climbing to 94-4 after a positive description of what the Amendment would do.

Methodologically, it’s worth noting that the AJC/ABT-SRBI survey included 853 respondents, while the McLaughlin survey included 500 respondents.

Also released yesterday was a poll by Rosetta Stone on the Third Congressional District.

A first poll of Republican voters in U.S. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland’s Third District gives state Sen. Josh McKoon, whose the “religious liberty” legislation that has roiled the state Capitol, a slight early edge in a hypothetical GOP field of seven.

State Rep. Matt Ramsey of Peachtree City was next, followed by state Labor Commissioner Mark Butler. There have been no announcements of candidacies for the seat. Westmoreland announced last Friday he wouldn’t be a candidate for re-election this year.

The Rosetta Stone Communications survey of Georgia’s 3rd congressional district was conducted on January 11, 2016 and included responses from 786 pre-screened Republican primary voters. The survey has a margin of error of 3.5%. Cross-tabs available by request.

Josh McKoon – 10%
Matt Ramsey – 8.6%
Mark Butler – 5.7%
Mike Crane – 5.6%
Matt Brass – 4.2%
Chip Flanagan – 1.8%
David Stover – 1.5%
Undecided – 62.6%

It’s worth noting from the crosstabs that on the question of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act championed by McKoon,

Support – 49.9%
Oppose – 7.6%
Undecided – 42.5%

That’s a better than 6:1 ration of Republican Primary voters in the Third District who support the Religious Liberty bill.

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