For the last time in the 2022 midterm-election cycle, voters are voting and pollsters are trying to estimate how things will go. There isn’t much disagreement among the number crunchers about the Raphael Warnock–Herschel Walker general-election runoff in Georgia, but the contest is close enough that anything could happen.
Warnock has led in all of the 11 public polls that made the RealClearPolitics database during the brief, intense runoff campaign; his lead in the RCP polling averages is 3.7 percent. Walker led in the RCP averages prior to the November general election by 1.4 percent, and Warnock won the actual vote by 0.9 percent (just short of the majority that would have allowed him to avoid a runoff). It’s noteworthy that two pollsters who often posted pro-Republican outlier surveys in this cycle, Insider Advantage and Trafalgar Group, released late polls showing Warnock ahead (by 3 and 4 points, respectively).
Special elections (and that’s essentially what this is since few if any other contests will appear on the ballot in most of Georgia) are notoriously difficult to poll, however. Warnock has built a decent if not overwhelming lead in in-person early voting, which is so important in Georgia (it represented over half the total vote in November), but participation on Election Day — on which Walker relies disproportionately — is almost impossible to predict, as Politico notes:
Spurred by a condensed runoff period, early voting totals have set records, and it has been especially strong in heavily Black parts of the state and Democratic strongholds. The high turnout suggests that Election Day voting will once again be busy in the state, though it’s hard to estimate exactly where turnout will end up Tuesday night.
Since Georgia does not have voter registration by party, it’s not easy to calculate early-voting margins for Warnock, though the percentage of early votes cast by Black voters rose from 29 percent in November to 32 percent in the runoff. Election Day weather could also help the incumbent since rain is forecast for heavily Republican northern Georgia:
Polls have been generally accurate in 2022 despite many concerns that they might again underestimate Republican-leaning groups, as they generally did in 2020 (but not in 2018). If they nail this runoff, it will be a reassuring year for the public-opinion-research business. If Walker wins, you can expect some renewed talk of an obscured Republican majority in the electorate along with justified GOP claims that Georgia is not quite as blue-trending as it appeared when Warnock was elected.
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