Key Demographics to Watch
Georgia’s twin senate runoff elections will be defined by the turn out of specific demographic constituencies for each party. The two Republican candidates have an inherent advantage in these runoff elections. In November, incumbent David Perdue (R) won around 88,000 more votes than his demoratic challenger, Jon Ossoff. In the Loeffler/Collins/Warnock election, the Republican candidates, Loefller and Collins split the vote but earned more votes combined than Warnock, the Democratic candidate for the seat. In order for Ossoff and Warnock to win the senate seats they must either convince Georgians who voted Republican on the third of November 2020 to vote Democrat, or increase their turn out of traditional Democratic voters relative to Republican voters. The Democrats are focusing on the latter option, however they are fighting an uphill battle. Demographically, Democratic voters are simply less likely to turn out for a special election when compared with Republicans. The Democrats success in November can be largely attributed to support from Black voters in large urban areas, with Ossoff winning 87% of Black voters in the state of Georgia. Historical patterns suggest however, that while turn out will be lower for both parties in this special election, it will be disproportionately lower among Black voters, a clear disadvantage for the Democrats. While many polls grant Ossoff and Warnock slight leads over their Republican opponents, if voting patterns of recent history persist, the percentage of people answering polls in favor of the Democrats will be overrepresentative of the number of people who will actually vote Democrat in the election. Nevertheless, two recent inroads made by the Democratic party in Georgia allow them to be competitive in this race. First, following a contentious gubernatorial election in 2018, several unprecedented grassroots registration movements vastly increased the pool of registered Democratic voters. In the November election, John Ossoff won the most votes in a statewide election of any Democratic candidate in Georgian history, signifying a degree of success in these movements for mass registration and galvanization. It is, however, unlikely that Ossoff will be able to emulate this unprecedented turn out for the runoff election without a presidential election to motivate attendance at the polls. Additionally, a surge in suburban support for the Democrats as a result of both demographic shifts and shifts in opinion has increased the competitiveness of Ossoff and Warnock in these elections. Unlike the aforementioned Black voters living in large cities, the suburban voters, specifically white women, that shifted towards the Democrats in November are likely to vote in special elections, a positive for the Democrats. Many pundits speculate that independent and Republican-leaning suburban voters who voted Democrat in November may vote Republican now, with the hopes of maintaining a balance of power, now that a Democratic president is set to take office for the next four years. While there is not evidence to substantiate this claim, it is representative of the additional influences present in a runoff election. Additionally, the increasing prevalence of mail-in voting due to the Covid-19 Pandemic, will certainly influence the election by expanding voting access. Overall, both senate elections are poised to be extremely close, with the Republican candidates maintaining a slight edge over their Democratic challengers, despite misleading polling data. Stay tuned with the Conard Courant on January 5th for live updates on these senate races.