New polls in the South: Georgia gubernatorial race tied; Tennessee Senate race close


Two new polls from Reuters/Ipsos/University of Virginia Center for Politics show close races in two high-profile, open-seat Southern contests: the Tennessee Senate race and Georgia gubernatorial race.

In Tennessee, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R, TN-7) leads former Gov. Phil Bredesen (D) 47%-44%. Earlier in the campaign, this poll might have been taken as a good sign for Blackburn, who was generally trailing Bredesen. However, the three most recent public polls have shown her with larger leads: 14 points in a New York Times/Siena College poll, eight points in CBS News/YouGov survey, and five points in a Fox News poll. So, compared to other recent polls, it’s actually a better finding for Bredesen.

This poll does perhaps suggest that Blackburn may have slightly more room to grow than Bredesen: just 2% of self-identified Democratic likely voters said that they didn’t know who they would support or refused to say, while 6% of self-identified Republicans said the same. Bredesen does better among Democrats (a 92%-3% lead) than Blackburn does with Republicans (86%-7% lead), and he also has a giant lead among self-described independents (59%-21%), yet he still is not leading because of Tennessee’s very Republican electorate. The Crystal Ball rates the Tennessee Senate race Leans Republican.

In Georgia, Secretary of State Brian Kemp (R) and former state House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams (D) are effectively tied, with Kemp at 47% and Abrams at 46%. Potentially looming large in this race is the presence of a Libertarian candidate, Ted Metz, who was a named option in this poll and attracted 2% support. But even that tiny percentage could be enough to throw the Georgia governor’s race into a Dec. 4 runoff because it could deprive either major party candidate of the majority support required to win outright on Election Day. The Crystal Ball rates the Georgia contest as Toss-up/Leans Runoff, reflecting the possibility of the election going to overtime. This finding of an effectively tied race generally reflects other recent surveys.

The two polls were conducted online in English from Oct. 4 to Oct. 11 and feature 1,088 likely voter respondents from Georgia and 1,108 likely voter respondents from Tennessee. More details, including tables, crosstabs, and methodological information, for both of these polls is available at:



Despite the two states voting markedly differently in the 2016 presidential race — Donald Trump won Georgia by five points but Tennessee by 26 points — these polls find that the president’s approval rating is similar in each state: 51% approve/48% disapprove in the Peach State and 53%/46% in the Volunteer State.

The polls also reported similar levels of support for Brett Kavanaugh’s recent nomination and later confirmation to the United States Supreme Court. In Georgia, 49% supported Kavanaugh’s nomination and 44% opposed, while in Tennessee 51% supported and 39% opposed. By a 41%-32% margin, Tennessee likely voters said they believed Blackburn was better on the issue of the Supreme Court than Bredesen.

Reuters, Ipsos, and the UVA Center for Politics are collaborating this fall on several state-level polls. This is the third batch that has been released so far. Previously, this group released polls of five states in the Sun Belt, of five mostly Midwestern states, and of Illinois and Missouri. More releases are planned in advance of the November general election. These individual state-level polls also will help supplement the data presented on the UVA Center for Politics/Ipsos Political Atlas, a new website that uses Crystal Ball ratings, poll-based modeling, and social media data to present the state of play in this cycle’s Senate, House, and gubernatorial elections. A holistic approach is also what we at the Crystal Ball apply to polling, and we try to take many different surveys into account as we formulate our ratings.