ATLANTA – Republican Gov. Brian Kemp is holding a 10-point lead over Democratic challenger Stacey Abrams, according to a poll released this week.
But on spending and taxes, abortion, and gun rights, most respondents to the same survey sided with Abrams’ positions.
The poll of 1,030 likely general election voters was conducted Sept. 15-Oct. 4 by the University of Georgia on behalf of the Georgia News Collaborative (GNC), a consortium of more than 100 news organizations including Capitol Beat.
On spending and taxes, 55% of the respondents said Georgia should use its record budget surplus to increase spending in areas like education, health care and public safety. Just 31% favored using the surplus to cut taxes.
On abortion, 62% of survey respondents said they oppose the “heartbeat bill” Kemp steered through the General Assembly in 2019, which bans most abortions after fetal cardiac activity is detected, often as early as six weeks of pregnancy. Just 32% said they support the legislation.
On guns, 62% said they oppose a law the legislature passed this year that allows Georgians 21 and older to carry a concealed weapon in public without a license. Just 36% said they support the law.
Kemp has championed both one-time tax rebates and permanent tax cuts. This year, the Republican-controlled General Assembly passed a $1.6 billion tax rebate and the largest tax cut in Georgia history, which will gradually reduce the state income tax rate from 5.49% to 4.99% over six years, starting with the 2024 tax year. The current tax rate is 5.75%.
In addition, the governor has pledged a further $2 billion tax rebate if he wins a second term.
But most respondents to the GNC poll preferred spending the state’s huge budget surplus to improve core government services, a stand taken by Abrams and Democratic legislative leaders.
Donald Baker, who runs a heating and air conditioning business in Glynn County, said there are other ways to help low-income Georgians besides dipping into the surplus.
“I wish [politicians] would spend more money on the poor and the homeless than they would on advertising their races,” he said. “They’re spending so much money on ads. … There’s so much need out here in this country.”
Baker, however, noted he plans to vote for Kemp as well as Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger because they refused to back then-President Donald Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election in Georgia.
Most poll respondents also agreed with Abrams’ opposition to the abortion bill Kemp and GOP lawmakers passed along party lines three years ago.
Angela Brewington, a software engineer from Henry County, said the heartbeat bill went too far and that a ban on abortion after 12 weeks would be more reasonable.
“These are not my views, personally, on abortion of what choices I would make,” Brewington said. “But I don’t think that the state has a right to have a six-week ban. You barely know that you’re even pregnant at six weeks.”
Most respondents to the GNC survey also objected to the permit-less carry gun legislation Republican lawmakers passed this year with Kemp’s backing.
Aaron Williams of McDonough, who works for a telecommunications company, said the gun law should have excluded weapons of war.
“I understand where the Founding Fathers were coming from with the right to keep and bear arms,” he said. “Guns don’t bother me, but AR-15s are unnecessary. Pistols, shotguns and single-shot rifles in my opinion are completely reasonable. … The argument that it’s a slippery slope that’ll lead to all guns being taken is just a smoke screen.”
Abrams said the poll was a snapshot of how voters felt at a certain point in time, which could change considering what most had to say about her positions.
“The plans and policies I’m proposing are popular,” she told reporters Thursday. “My responsibility is to make sure they show up and vote.”
While most of the poll respondents took Abrams’ side on taxes and spending, abortion and gun rights, the survey also found voters are deeply concerned about inflation, an issue Republicans in Georgia and elsewhere are using on the campaign trail and in ads to hammer Democrats.
An overwhelming 92% of survey respondents indicated the current cost of living will play a role in deciding how they will vote next month.
Nearly that many – 88% – said rising prices have had an impact on their day-to-day lives.
“I’ve got friends that had to get a second job just to make ends meet, and they’re in businesses that pay very well,” said Susan Hasel of Walton County, an assistant in a publications business.
“Our economics have crumbled,” added Sarah Simcox, a kindergarten teacher in Forsyth County. “We were thriving prior to [the Biden] administration – and now I don’t even know if we can recover.”
The GNC poll had a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points. It was conducted via telephone, about 90% through cellphone interviews and 10% over landline connections.
The results were weighted to represent respondents proportionally in terms of race, sex, age, and education.
Staff writer Rebecca Grapevine contributed to this report.
This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.