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Poll results show tight races between candidates in U.S. Senate runoffs

With the Jan. 5 runoff races just a little more than a month away, a SurveyUSA Poll commissioned exclusively by 11Alive shows the candidates in competitive races.

ATLANTA — Voters will head to the polls again next month to decide if Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler will keep their seats or lose to their Democratic challengers.

With the Jan. 5 runoff races just a little more than a month away, a SurveyUSA Poll commissioned exclusively by 11Alive shows that the candidates are in tight, competitive races.

The poll indicates that in the runoff between Perdue and Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff, the candidates run effectively even. The poll shows Ossoff at 50 percent, nominally 2 points ahead of Perdue, at 48 percent. 

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The slight lead, however, shouldn't be viewed as anything more than validation that every vote will be critical when Georgia starts counting ballots. Ossoff also led some polls in the run-up to the Nov. 3 general election, before Perdue secured about 86,000 more votes.

In the other runoff race, Democrat Raphael Warnock has a small but measurable advantage over Loeffler, 52 percent to 45 percent. In that special election for Johnny Isakson's old seat, out of a field of about 20 candidates, Warnock had the most votes at about 33%. Loeffler finished in second, with about 26%, ahead of Rep. Doug Collins at 20%.

Below are some of the notable points from the poll:

Breakdown by race

  • White voters give Perdue a 43-point lead and give Loeffler a 37-point lead.
  •  Black voters give Ossoff an 87 point advantage and give Warnock (who is black) an 83-point advantage.

Base for Republicans, Democrats

  • Perdue holds 96% of the GOP base, Loeffler holds 92%. 
  • Ossoff holds 94% of the Democratic base, Warnock holds 97%.
  • Independents split in both contests. 
  • Moderates break 3:2 for Ossoff and 2:1 for Warnock. 

Breakdown by sex and age

  • Men give Perdue a 10-point edge; men give Loeffler a 9-point edge.
  • Women give Ossoff an 11-point advantage; women give Warnock a 19-point advantage. 
  • Voters younger than age 50 break 5:4 Democrat in both contests. 
  •  But voters age 50+ like Perdue, while voters age 50+ are less convinced about Loeffler, where the contest is effectively tied

A look at support for each candidate

  • Of Perdue runoff voters, 90% stay with Loeffler, 10% are vulnerable.
  • Of Ossoff runoff voters, 97% vote for Warnock, just 3% are vulnerable.
  • Of those who voted for Trump in the November general election, 97% vote for Perdue, 94% vote for Loeffler.

Breakdown by educational background

  •  Voters with a 4-year college degree are split in both contests.
  •  But voters with a high-school education give Perdue more backing than they give Loeffler.  

Voters by region

  • Greater Atlanta votes the same way in both contests: a 4-touchdown Democratic edge.
  • Northwestern GA votes the same way in both contests: a 2-touchdown GOP edge. 
  • The contest is in play in Southern and Coastal GA, where Perdue leads by 2 touchdowns but Loeffler hangs on by a field goal. 
  •  Rural GA backs Perdue by 39 points. Rural GA backs Loeffler by 26 points.

With just a little more than a month to go before the election, 11Alive political analyst Andra Gillespie said the goal of the campaigns is likely not about changing people’s minds on who they like, but rather convincing them to show up when it counts.

“In particular, when you’re dealing with young and inexperienced voters, they may not understand how a runoff works,” said Gillespie.

To do that, she said Georgians may soon see campaigns shift to giving voters civil lessons by informing voters that the runoff is a statewide race election, that involve two senate seats races and how to vote.

“So, if you were neglecting your phone bank, neglecting your text messaging operation, if you are neglecting your canvassing, which I assume will happen on both sides, regardless of the pandemic, then you are going to lose the election. You can’t win the election on the airways, especially when most people have already made up their minds,” said Gillespie.

Disinformation spread by President Donald Trump about Georgia’s election results could impact voters’ confidence in the January senate runoff elections. Of the people surveyed who said they don’t plan to vote, 13 percent said it was because they believe the November voting process was rigged. Another 5 percent said they are intentionally boycotting the runoff.

Trump is scheduled to return to Georgia to stump for Senators Perdue and Loeffler.

RELATED: Details announced for President Trump's Georgia visit on Saturday

To help Republican turn out, 11Alive political analyst Mike Hassinger said the president should likely stay away from making it about himself and the false claims about Georgia’s rigged election.

“He does run the risk of further turning off Republican voters, who we used to call them the reliables. They always show up and voted for the R,” said Hassinger.

11Alive reached out to each of the candidates. Below are the responses received from the camps off Ossoff and Warnock. 11Alive reached out to Perdue and Loeffler as well, but they did not respond.

"Senator Perdue is clearly seeing his support collapse as new revelations have surfaced that throughout the pandemic, he has been working to line his own pockets while fighting against economic relief for Georgia's working families and small businesses," said Jake Best, campaign spokesman and press secretary for Ossoff.

"While Republicans are in disarray and casting doubt on fair and free elections, Reverend Warnock is focused on earning the support of Georgians," Warnock's team said. 

The poll involved online interviews of 850 voting-age adults representative of Georgia's electorate between Nov. 27 and Nov. 30. Of those, 717 are registered to vote and 583 were determined to be likely to vote in the Jan. 5 runoffs.

The pool was weighted to U.S. Census targets for gender, age, race, education, home-ownership, and political party identification. 

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