AP VoteCast: Competing coalitions define Georgia Senate races

Voters register before casting their vote during Georgia's Senate runoff elections on Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Voters register before casting their vote during Georgia's Senate runoff elections on Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

WASHINGTON – Georgia’s Senate runoff elections were a clash of two closely matched coalitions, with Democrat Raphael Warnock edging out his rival in the one-time Republican stronghold.

Warnock and fellow Democrat Jon Ossoff — whose race was still too early to call — relied on the backing of Black voters, younger voters, people earning less than $50,000 and newcomers to the state, according to AP VoteCast, a survey of more than 3,700 voters in Tuesday’s high-stakes Senate contests.

The Republican coalition backing Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue was the mirror opposite: white, older, wealthier and longtime Georgia residents.

The findings from AP VoteCast reveal the extent of Georgia’s recent political transformation — from GOP bastion to electoral battleground where turnout is decisive. The state’s runoffs will decide control of the U.S. Senate.

The survey found Black voters made up roughly 30% of the electorate and almost all of them — 94% — backed Ossoff and Warnock, who will be the first Black senator from Georgia. Voters under 45 and those earning less than $50,000 also broke for Democrats. About 60% of recent arrivals — the force behind Atlanta's sprawling growth — voted for the Democrats.

The coalition closely resembles the one that narrowly handed Georgia’s Electoral College votes to Joe Biden in November, making him the first Democratic presidential candidate to win the state since 1992.

But the survey showed Republicans also held firmly onto their supporters in the runoff, bringing out white voters and those older than 45 — groups that still account for majorities of Georgia voters. Republicans Perdue and Loeffler also fared better than Democrats among voters earning more than $75,000 and those who have called Georgia home for more than 20 years.