May 13, 2022 - Politics

Georgia swing voters don't view abortion as a key issue

Illustration of two ballots creating the shape of a medical cross

Illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios

Georgia swing voters in our latest Axios Engagious/Schlesinger focus groups strongly support abortion rights — but say the issue alone likely won't decide who they support in November midterm elections.

Why it matters: That suggests real limits to Democrats' plans to convert public opposition to the Supreme Court's expected overturning of Roe v. Wade into a strategy to retain their congressional majorities.

Driving the news: This was a key takeaway from Axios' two online focus group panels Tuesday night.

  • They included 13 Georgians, all from the greater metro region, who voted for former Donald Trump in 2016, then Joe Biden in 2020. Three identified as Democrats, six as Republicans and four as independents.
  • A focus group isn't a statistically significant sample like a poll. But the responses help show what voters in crucial states think about key issues.

Details: All 13 participants said they supported keeping abortion legal. None said they would vote for Democrats in November as a "protest vote" based on the issue alone — though most said it would be one factor in their decisions.

  • Most participants indicated other issues ranked just as high on their priority list, including inflation, the economy, taxes, climate change and guns.

Between the lines: Abortion politics may be more effective in turning out some reliable Democratic base voters for whom abortion rights are a highly motivating factor — including younger voters, college-educated women and people of color — than in driving swing voters to the polls.

  • Billy C. of Atlanta said he planned to back Democrats in November before abortion re-emerged. When it comes to abortion, he said, there is "gray area" around what the law should protect and he'd look "negatively toward any candidates who are using this as a political platform just to gain notoriety" regardless of their party affiliation.
  • Kayla A. of Decatur said she's torn. Abortion rights are important to her, while on other issues, "I want to vote Republican because I agree on most of the other things that they stand for... I may do like I did for this election and vote for the Democrat because certain issues are just very important."
  • "It's not going to be the only reason, but it will play into my decision. There's never one reason why I vote for anybody," said Tashay K. from Atlanta, who identifies as Republican but plans to vote for Democratic incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock.

But, but, but: On the other hand, participants said Republicans cannot solely count on their votes based on their frustration with inflation. While none of the 13 place the entire blame for inflation on President Biden, a majority said he bears some responsibility.

What they're saying: “Conventional wisdom has narrowed the midterm debate to abortion vs. inflation, but what we heard from Georgia swing voters upends that construct,” said Rich Thau, president of Engagious, who moderated the focus groups.

  • "These voters all support Roe, but won’t knee-jerk vote for Democrats in November because of abortion; nor will they automatically vote for Republicans because of inflation.”

The big picture: These voters also were asked to weigh in on high-profile upcoming contests for U.S. Senate and Georgia governor and secretary of state.

  • Only one participant could recognize any of GOP Senate frontrunner Herschel Walker's primary opponents by image.
  • Only about half recognized Walker's photo, but when prompted almost all said questions about Walker's past, including allegations of domestic violence, were "concerning" to them, though most wanted to do more research on his background.
  • Of Walker's hopeful opponent, incumbent Sen. Warnock, most voters had a positive perception, using words like "reliable" and "authentic."

Opinions of Gov. Brian Kemp had moved in a positive direction for a majority of the focus group participants since he took office, participants said. Several credited his refusal to give in to pressure from former President Trump to overturn Georgia's election results, though some said they found him "wishy-washy" or "trying to play both sides of the fence."

  • Kemp faces a primary challenge from David Perdue, a former senator who lost his 2021 re-election and falsely claims the 2020 election was stolen.
  • On the Democratic side, participants described hopeful Stacey Abrams as "a go-getter," "driven" and a "fighter," but also expressed questions about her motives and authenticity.

In the GOP primary for Georgia secretary of state, only four of the 13 could identify incumbent Brad Raffensperger by his photo, but those who could had a positive opinion of his handling of election pressure brought by Trump.

  • None of the panelists recognized Raffensperger's Trump-endorsed opponent, Jody Hice.

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Atlanta.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Atlanta stories

No stories could be found


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Atlanta.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more