By Saba Long
The past week has been a news whirlwind as a result of the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act and the Voting Rights Act as well as the ongoing national debate on women’s rights.
In a recent poll conducted by Fred Hicks of the non-partisan firm HEG, likely general election voters across the state of Georgia were asked their gender, political affiliation and five questions on the issues of the Voting Rights Act, abortion and gay marriage.
There has been a flurry of what-if articles and statements by politicos on the feasibility of turning Georgia purple. The poll responses speak to the conservative nature of our state’s electorate.
Key points to keep in mind regarding social issues in the Peach state are that roughly 53 percent of the voting public is age 45 and older and white voters make up nearly 59 percent of registered voters. Black voters come in at 30 percent with Asian and Hispanic voters at less than 2 percent each.
Metro Atlanta makes up roughly 45 percent of state’s electorate.
Voting Rights Act
The poll question stated:
As you may know, the Voting Rights Act was designed to prevent state and local governments from using rules and procedures, which prevented many blacks from voting. Yesterday the Supreme Court struck down a provision of the Act. Do you think the Voting Rights Act is still necessary to make sure that minorities are allowed to vote, or do you think the Voting Rights Act is no longer necessary?
Among those polled, 51 percent stated they do not believe the Voting Rights Act is still necessary with a remarkable racial divide and a slight gender divide. African-Americans overwhelmingly, 91.7 percent, stated the it was still necessary while only 36.2 percent of white voters stated the same.
Interestingly, those identifying as Independents – only white respondents identified as such — were solidly in support of the Supreme Court’s decision.
Which of the following statements comes closest to your view on abortion: abortion should always be legal; should be legal most of the time; should be made illegal except in cases of rape, incest and to save the mother’s life; or abortion should be made illegal without any exceptions?
Legal most of the time
Illegal except in cases of rape, incest and/or to save the mother’s life
Illegal without any exception
Likely to be a contentious topic during the Republican primaries for the upcoming Congressional and Senate campaigns, it important to note 47 percent of all polled believe it should be illegal with exceptions. Less than 10 percent of Georgians believe in banning abortion completely. This should give cover to moderate GOPers and those breaking from the likes of Georgia Right to Life.
African-American and Republican responses mirrored each other on this issue.
A strong majority, 61 percent, of Georgians opposes legalizing gay marriage.
“The perception on gay marriage is that Republicans are opposed and Democrats are in support; we found that to be partially true,” said Dr. Omar Nagi, a sociologist who consulted on the poll. “Republican voters overwhelmingly oppose legalizing gay marriage, but Democrats do not overwhelmingly endorse it. The combination of very conservative Republican voters and conservative Democrats leads to a huge block opposing the legalization of gay marriage.”
Of the African-Americans polled, nearly 53 percent stated no to the question of if gay and lesbian couples should or should not be recognized by the law as valid, with the same rights as traditional marriages. By 76 percent, Georgia voters passed a constitutional amendment in 2004 banning gay marriage.
This poll highlights many conversations I’ve had in the wake of the Supreme Court decisions and the recent women’s rights debates. The Atlanta lifestyle has a way of blinding you to the political realities and values outside of I-285.
Public opinion seems to be a majority of Georgians agree with the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Voting Rights Act while opposing its ruling on same sex marriages. We are generally against abortion but are amenable to making certain exceptions.
The demographics of currently registered Georgia voters are not in favor of progressives – particularly on social issues. A quick glance at the Georgia Secretary of State’s website voter registration numbers shows this is a very white state and a very Republican state. In any given general election, white voter turnout consistently outperforms white voter registrations, while the opposite is true for African Americans.
This poll shows that with the exception of the Voting Rights Act, minorities and whites in this state share similar social values, which would seem to be an opportunity for GOP minority outreach.