One month from tomorrow, voters in the battleground 6th district will choose the next U.S. Representative from Georgia. In a new 11Alive exclusive poll conducted by Survey USA, Democrat Jon Ossoff leads the race 51 percent, compared to Karen Handel’s 44 percent. Six percent of voters remain undecided.
The 7 percent lead is beyond the +/- margin of error of 4.3 percent, but “close enough in a low-turnout, stand-alone runoff to be anyone’s call, though clearly Ossoff is in a better position than Handel,” Survey USA analysts concluded.
Emory University Political Science professor Andra Gilespie agrees, saying, "This race is too close to call in this survey given the sample size."
Digging into the data behind the poll, several categories are in play:
► Women: 52% of women said they'd vote for Ossoff, compared to Handel's 43%
► Old voters vs. young voters: Handel wins with voters over 50 years old (52% compared to Ossoff''s 43%), while Ossoff carries voters under 50 with 59% over Handel's 34%.
► Race: Handel takes 49% of the white vote, over Ossoff's 46%, but he has a huge lead among minority voters (79% of black voters and 63% of Asian voters)
► Ideology: As expected, voters identifying themselves as very conservative and somewhat conservative lean heavily towards Karen Handel. Just as those identifying themselves as very liberal and somewhat liberal lean towards Ossoff. The story lies in the middle with moderates. 69 percent of moderates say they plan to vote for Ossoff, 22 percent named Handel as their candidate. That group also contains the highest percentage of undecided: 9 percent.
"One thing that is notable from this poll is that Ossoff is doing better among pure independents in this poll than he did in pre-April 18 polls. For instance, in the April 4 poll you did with SurveyUSA, Ossoff polled 40% among Independents," Gillespie said.
► Presidential choice: Trump's disapproval rating in the 6th district is 51%, but there is little crossover. 91% of Handel's supporters voted for Trump; 94% of Ossoff's supporters voted for Clinton.
► Congressional choice: In one of Handel's strongest-performing categories, people who voted for Tom Price support her as the replacement. 77 percent of voters who picked Price in 2016 are Handel supporters.
"[The candidates] have different weaknesses but the same remedy. Despite ongoing demographic changes to the district, we have to assume that this district still has more Republicans than Democrats. This would seem to favor Handel, but only if she can get that base to turn out to vote for her. Ossoff wants to take advantage of Democratic outrage to drive up turnout in the district. So, they both need superior get out the vote operations," Gillespie said.
A spokesperson for the Handel campaign responded to the poll:
"I don’t think anyone really believes that this is a 7 point race and our internal numbers show that this is truly a toss-up. Karen Handel has faced an unprecedented flood of out-of-state money, raised from Nancy Pelosi and the 'resistance', to fund ads falsely attacking Karen Handel and presenting Jon Ossoff as someone in touch with the voters of the 6th district. Most of his claims have been proven false by independent news organizations, and we're confident that on June 20th, voters will see through this duplicity and elect Karen Handel."
Jon Ossoff released this statement in response to the poll:
"This race is neck and neck and my team and I are going to continue working as hard as we ever have, reaching out to every voter and making the case for fresh leadership and accountability in Washington."
The vacancy in the 6th district opened up when President Donald Trump named Price as a cabinet member, to lead the Department of Health and Human Services. No single candidate gained more than 50 percent of the vote in the April 18 election, but Handel and Ossoff came out as the top two. They will face off in a June 20 runoff.