Public Policy Polling (PPP) conducted a statewide survey in Georgia a couple of weeks ago to gauge public sentiment on the upcoming senate and presidential races.
There were the usual political trends that were tracked by the poll.
Among Republicans, U.S. Reps. Phil Gingrey and Paul Broun had moved to the front in the GOP primary battle for Saxby Chambliss’ Senate seat. Gingrey was the preference of 25 percent of the voters and Broun followed at 19 percent, while Rep. Jack Kingston and former secretary of state Karen Handel had slipped back a few points.
The survey showed that Democrat Michelle Nunn could run a fairly strong race against the nominee who emerges from the Republican primary. It also showed Hillary Clinton might have a shot at carrying Georgia if she is the Democratic presidential nominee in 2016.
PPP usually mixes in a few questions about cultural issues in its surveys, probably to provide some relief from the political horse races, and they did the same in their Georgia poll.
They asked: Would you support or oppose requiring background checks for all gun sales, including gun shows and the Internet? The poll showed that 73 percent supported background checks while 19 percent opposed them, with majority support among both Republicans and Democrats.
Another question: Do you think employers should be allowed to discriminate against employees based on sexual orientation? Only 17 percent said employers should be allowed to discriminate against gay employees, while 72 percent said they should not. A majority of both Democrats and Republicans opposed this form of discrimination.
On the issue of same-sex marriages, however, Georgians are still strongly opposed to the idea. Only 32 percent said these marriages should be allowed, while 60 percent said they should not. Even among Democrats, support for gay marriage was only supported by a 47-43 percent margin (Republicans opposed it by 80-15 percent).
Georgians were asked if they believe more in creationism or in evolution. The response was that 53 percent believe more in creationism, 29 percent believe more in evolution, and 18 percent were not sure.
Republicans believed more strongly in creationism — by a 68-19 percent margin — but even among Democrats, the vote was split: 38 percent went for creationism and 38 percent were for evolution.
This could mean that Georgia is still a very religious state, or it could mean that our high schools are doing a poor job of teaching science. I’ll leave it up to the academic researchers in the University System to come up with an answer for that one.
Another survey question: Do you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of Paula Deen? A 54 percent majority had a favorable opinion of the controversial Southern chef while only 21 percent had an unfavorable opinion and 25 percent were not sure. Among Republicans, Deen’s favorables were 73-11 percent, but even among the Democrats surveyed, she had a slight plurality of approvals (36-34 percent).
That sounds very plausible to me. In the period since Deen ignited a nationwide controversy by admitting she had used a racially-charged word to describe black people, I’ve heard conservatives and liberals alike say she was being treated unfairly by the media, given the time and circumstances in which she grew up.
PPP asked Georgians if they had a favorable or unfavorable opinion of William Tecumseh Sherman, the Yankee general who torched half the state on his march to sea during the Civil War.
The response was 16 percent favorable, 28 percent unfavorable, and a whopping 56 percent said they were not sure. It has been nearly 150 years since Sherman’s march, and it appears that a large number of Georgians no longer care about him or even know who he is.
Survey respondents were then asked their opinion of Honey Boo Boo, the Middle Georgia beauty pageant contestant whose family is the subject of one of America’s best-known cable reality shows. Only 8 percent have a favorable opinion of Honey Boo Boo, while 63 percent hold an unfavorable opinion of her.
That may be the most interesting survey result of all: Gen. William T. Sherman has a favorable rating twice as high as Honey Boo Boo among Georgians. Who would have guessed it?
Tom Crawford is editor of The Georgia Report, an Internet news service at gareport.com that reports on government and politics in Georgia. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.