Raphael Warnock leading early votes, Herschel Walker has more election day support

Georgia’s U.S. Senate race could determine Washington’s balance of political power
Debate between Warnock and Walker Friday night
Debate between Warnock and Walker Friday night
Published: Oct. 26, 2022 at 12:43 PM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - Georgia’s nationally watched U.S. Senate race remains tight, according to a new poll from Monmouth University.

Incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock has a significant lead among early voters, according to the poll, while challenger Herschel Walker is bolstered by the potential for more support among highly motivated Election Day voters.

The finds Warnock with better favorable ratings while Walker is unable to take advantage of key issues that have been helping the GOP nationally.

The poll was conducted by telephone October 20-24 with 615 Georgia registered voters, and has a margin of error of +/- 5.0 percentage points. It was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, N.J.

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“Walker’s path to victory is narrow, but it’s still there,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute. “He needs to get enough voters to overlook their misgivings about him to come over to his support or benefit from a turnout disparity among the two parties’ base voters.

“At this point, the latter option looks like his better bet,” Murray said.

One in four potential voters have already cast their ballots in this election. These voters back Warnock (61%) over Walker (34%) by a large margin. Among other voters who intend to vote during Georgia’s early voting period, more are aligned with Warnock (37% definite and 15% probable) than Walker (28% definite and 14% probable).

Walker, however, has a large advantage among those who plan to vote on Election Day: 39% definite and 15% probable for Walker compared with just 24% definite and 10% probable for Warnock.

“It’s pretty reasonable to come up with turnout scenarios where either candidate is slightly ahead,” said Murray. “The unknown question is to what extent Republican enthusiasm on Election Day is able to overcome the Democratic advantage in early voting.”

The poll also finds that Libertarian candidate, Chase Oliver, is unknown to the vast majority of voters, with just 1% saying they will definitely support him in this election and another 9% lending their probable support.

Among voters who have already cast their ballots, Oliver is backed by 4%. If he maintains that level of support in the final vote count, a runoff election would be likely given how close the two major party candidates’ vote shares are currently, the poll said.

Warnock holds a net positive rating of 51% favorable to 43% unfavorable among Georgia voters, while Walker has a net negative rating of 43% favorable to 52% unfavorable. Changes in these ratings since last month have been small and within the poll’s margin of error.

RELATED: Progressive poll shows Warnock, Walker tied

Just under half of Georgia voters say they will either definitely (39%) or probably (10%) vote for Warnock in November and a slightly smaller number will either definitely (33%) or probably (11%) vote for Walker. These numbers also include those who have already cast their ballots in early voting, representing about one in four potential voters in this election.

At the other end of the spectrum, 40% say they will definitely not vote for Warnock and 46% say the same for Walker. The number of voters who give their definite support has increased by seven points for each candidate since September, while the number who say they definitely would not vote for them has gone down a couple of points for Warnock (from 42% to 40%) and up a few points for Walker (from 43% to 46%).

Among voters who participated in the 2020 presidential election, half definitely (40%) or probably (10%) support Warnock while a slightly smaller number definitely (34%) or probably (11%) support Walker. The race is also close among those who voted in the 2018 “blue wave” midterm election, with support for Warnock (41% definite and 9% probable) slightly stronger than support for Walker (34% definite and 10% probable).

The top concern for Georgia voters is financial. Four in 10 (41%) choose “jobs, the economy and cost of living” from a list of seven policy areas as the most important issue in determining their vote for U.S. Senate. This is the most important factor for both Republicans (49%) and independents (43%), whereas Democrats split their top concerns between abortion (33%) and the economy (27%).

Warnock has been able to ride above the drag economic worries are having on Democrats nationally. Georgia voters are evenly divided between whether they trust him more (41%) or Walker more (40%) to handle this issue. The electorate is also fairly evenly divided on which candidate they trust on hot button issues such as crime, immigration, and gun control. Warnock has a clear edge over Walker on the issue of abortion (42% to 33%), including among independent voters.

“Warnock is running even with his opponent on issues that are hurting Democrats in other places. That’s a large part of why he’s still in the hunt with an electorate that tends to lean conservative,” said Murray.

Walker’s political views (50%) are slightly more likely than Warnock’s (45%) to be seen as in line with most state residents. However, this is largely due to the partisan makeup of the electorate, which has more self-identified Republicans than Democrats. Among independents, the two candidates are about even in being seen as in line politically with most Georgians (46% for Walker and 48% for Warnock).

President Joe Biden (42% favorable and 57% unfavorable) and former President Donald Trump (43% favorable and 56% unfavorable) receive similarly negative ratings from Georgia voters. Eight in 10 (82%) describe Warnock as a strong supporter of Biden while a similar number (77%) say Walker is a strong supporter of Trump.