PPP's first poll of the Georgia Senate race finds incumbent Johnny Isakson ahead, but below the 50% mark generally considered safe for an incumbent. Isakson's at 47% to 35% for challenger Jim Barksdale. Voters are pretty evenly divided in their feelings about Isakson- 40% approve of the job he's doing to 37% who disapprove. Barksdale is relatively unknown- 59% of voters have no opinion about him one way or another- but among voters who are familiar with him he actually leads Isakson 50/43 which bodes well for him as voters become more familiar with him.
Isakson is certainly the favorite, but there are several issues that shape up well for Democrats in this race:
-58% of voters in the state think there should be hearings on Merrick Garland's nomination to the Supreme Court, to only 28% opposed to them. Democrats (79/9) and independents (58/24) overwhelmingly support hearings, while Republicans (40/45) are pretty evenly split on them.
-69% of voters in the state support increasing the minimum wage to at least $10 an hour, compared to 17% who think it should stay where it is and 12% who would prefer to eliminate the minimum wage altogether. 98% of Democrats, 57% of independents, and 55% of Republicans are in support of an increase to at least $10.
-87% of voters in the state support background checks on all gun purchases, to only 8% who are opposed to them. There's little partisan division on that issue, with 93% of Democrats, 87% of Republicans, and 81% of independents in support of expanded checks.
Moving to state politics, voters are pretty evenly divided on Nathan Deal's job performance as Governor, with 39% of voters approving of him to 44% who disapprove. Deal's numbers are a little unusual in that he has relatively weak numbers within his own party (50/35) but stronger than usual crossover support from Democrats (30/56). One reason for those unusual splits might be his recent veto of the campus carry bill. Overall voters stand with him on that- only 37% support the bill to 52% who oppose it. But Republicans support it 57/29, which may explain part of his weak numbers with them, and Democrats oppose it 12/80, which may explain part of his unusually strong numbers with them.
One state issue where we continue to find voters standing with the Democrats is Medicaid Expansion. 54% support it to only 30% who are opposed. Democrats are much more unified in their support of it (85/6) than Republicans are in their opposition (28/46), and independents pretty closely mirror the overall support (54/35).
We also polled on a variety of sports issues. The Braves are the state's most popular pro team, with 57% of voters in the state identifying themselves as fans. They're followed by the Falcons at 46%, and the Hawks at 31%.
Braves fans are not happy right now though. Only 23% approve of the decisions the front office has made over the last few years, to 42% who disapprove. One specific decision they're unhappy about is the one to move to Cobb County- only 37% of Braves fans say they support that to 51% who think the team should have remained in Atlanta. Fans do agree with the decision to fire Fredi Gonzalez though- 34% think it was the right thing to do to 25% who dissent. And 60% think the team will be back in the playoffs by 2019- 16% think they'll make it next year, 24% think they'll make it in 2018, and 20% think they'll make it in 2019. 9% think it will be 2020, 17% think it will be even longer, and 14% aren't sure.
Fans of the Falcons and Hawks seem a lot more content with the direction of those franchises. Dan Quinn has a 60/8 approval with Falcons fans after his first year, and after a run of strong seasons Mike Budenholzer is at 73/7 with Hawks fans. One interesting thing about Hawks fandom is how polarized it is- Democrats say they're fans of the Hawks 46/39, while Republicans say they're not 19/64.
On the college sports front Georgia blows out Georgia Tech in fan loyalty, 48/16. Dawgs fans actually somewhat disapprove of the firing of Mark Richt- 33% say they support the decision, 40% oppose it. But that doesn't stop them from being enthusiastic about the hiring of Kirby Smart- 49% think he was a good pick to only 9% who disapprove of it. Paul Johnson's approval numbers with Yellow Jacket fans are on the decline- he stood at 47/18 in the fall of 2014 the last time we polled it, but is now down to 37/19.
Full results here