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GOP Gubernatorial Candidate Brian Kemp Holds Primary Night Election Event
Republican gubernatorial candidate Gov. Brian Kemp speaks during his primary night election party on May 24 in Atlanta. Joe Raedle / Getty Images file

Kemp, Warnock lead in new poll that highlights potential for ticket-splitting

The poll found Democratic leads among older Black voters are large, but lower than the pollsters expected.

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Georgia Republican Gov. Brian Kemp leads Democratic nominee Stacey Abrams by 7% in a new poll that also shows Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock leading Republican Herschel Walker by 3%, a difference pollsters attribute to ticket-splitting that could be one key to how Georgia goes in November. 

The new AARP Georgia poll found Kemp leading Abrams 52% — 45%, and Warnock leading Walker 50% — 47% among likely voters. With Kemp and Walker both winning more than 90% of Republican voters and Abrams and Warnock winning at least 95% of Democratic voters, pollster Bob Ward told reporters Thursday that one key to understanding the difference between the two races lies with independent voters — Kemp has a 14% advantage with those voters (54% to 40%) while Warnock has a 3% point advantage (48% to 45%).

“This demonstrates something that we don’t see a lot of these days, which is ticket-splitting, and it’s happening here in Georgia,” said Ward, a partner at the polling firm Fabrizio Ward, which has polled for many prominent Republicans including former President Trump. 

“Voters are making choices, they are not hewing right down the party line.” 

Kemp is the only candidate viewed more favorably than unfavorably by likely voters. Kemp has a net favorable rating of 5%, Abrams of -4%, Walker of -8 while Warnock's is even.

The poll oversampled both voters ages 50 and older as well as Black voters in that age range, as it was commissioned by the AARP in Georgia.

Among Black voters age 50 and older, Abrams leads Kemp by a margin of 53%, and Warnock leads Walker by a margin of 63%. While large leads, the spreads are lower than what Democratic candidates have enjoyed from Black voters in the past, leading both Ward and fellow pollster Matt Hogan to question whether Democrats may be losing support among one of their key bases.

“Democrats typically win that voting bloc by an 80-point margin, just like Black voters overall,” Hogan, a partner at Impact Research, a firm that has polled for prominent Democrats including President Biden, said. 

“If Democrats had gotten the performance they typically get with Black voters, the governor’s race is a tied race, or a one-point race instead of a seven-point advantage that Kemp currently has.”

The poll finds President Biden's approval rating at just 34%, with 65% of likely voters disapproving of his job performance.

It also specifically looks at what voters aged 50 or older saw as their top issue in determining their vote for Senate and governor. The economy and inflation are the top two issues for older voters in both races.

Overall, voters aged 50 and older are more motivated to vote in November than the average likely voter, with Republicans holding a slight lead over Democrats as well. 

Fabrizo Ward and Impact Research polled 1,197 likely Georgia voters —500 likely voters, 550 likely voters aged 50 and older and 147 additional likely Black voters aged 50 and over. The poll ran from July 5-11 using landline, cell-phone and text-to-web. The error margin for the statewide sample is +/- 4.4 percent, for older voters +/- 3.4 percent and for older Black voters +/- 4.9%.