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Warnock holds narrow lead over Walker in Georgia runoff: poll

Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) holds a narrow 2-percentage point lead over Republican rival Herschel Walker in the Georgia Senate runoff, according to a new Emerson College Polling/The Hill survey.

The poll released on Thursday found that 49 percent of very likely voters surveyed said they would back Warnock, compared to 47 percent who said they would vote for Walker. A separate 4 percent said they were undecided; that polling falls within the margin of error, effectively tying the two candidates. 

When undecided voters were asked which candidate they were leaning toward, support for Warnock increased to 51 percent while Walker’s support rose to 49 percent.

But when respondents were asked who they expected would win the Georgia Senate runoff regardless of whom they supported, a wider gap emerged: 57 percent said they expected Warnock to prevail compared to 43 percent who said Walker would.

The development comes less than a week before Georgia holds its runoff election, the last Senate election of the November midterms. Warnock is vying for his first full-term in office after he won a special election in 2020 against former Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.), but neither he nor Walker notched at least half of the vote needed to avoid a December runoff. 

“Warnock’s base lies with voters under 50 – a 55% majority support him for re-election–whereas Walker holds a similar 55% majority among voters over 50,” said Spencer Kimball, executive director of Emerson College Polling. “The early vote breaks for Warnock by about 29 points, 63% to 34%, whereas those who have yet to cast their ballot break for Walker by eight points 52% to 44%.” 

“Despite the ballot test being well within the poll’s margin of error, a Walker win would surprise the majority of voters. About 1 in 5 Republicans expect their nominee to lose. This reflects a significant shift since the last pre-general election poll earlier this month, where voters were nearly 50-50 if Warnock or Walker would win,” he added.

Though the midterm environment is theoretically supposed to offer a favorable environment for Republicans, Walker faces several headwinds given he’s running again on a ballot that won’t include Gov. Brian Kemp (R), which might have encouraged more Republicans to vote. 

And because the November midterms determined that Democrats would at least be retaining their majority in the Senate, it’s possible GOP voters might feel less enthusiastic about turning out again given the race won’t change Democratic control in the upper chamber.

The Emerson College Polling/The Hill survey was conducted between Nov. 28 and Nov. 30 with 888 very likely voters surveyed. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.2 percentage points.