Why Warnock and Ossoff Received in Georgia

Two months ago, Republicans in Georgia won more votes for the Senate than the Democratic candidates, despite Joe Biden defeating President Trump at the top of the list. On Tuesday for the runoff elections, the Georgian electorate was very different; so was the result.

Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock prevailed in Georgia with the help of a superior democratic turnout, particularly among the black Georgians, which enabled them to overcome their disadvantage over voters who might have been decisive in Mr Biden’s victory, but for them Republican vote had voted.

A meaningful analysis of the results will only be possible once the state publishes detailed data on who exactly voted and who stayed at home. However, the data available so far shows that Democrats benefited from a cheaper electorate, as a larger proportion of Democrats, and especially black voters, returned to the polls than Republicans and white voters without college degrees. (The attached map shows how the margins for Mr. Ossoff shifted in his race against David Perdue. The map not shown for Mr. Warnock against Kelly Loeffler is essentially the same.)

Overall, voter turnout in the districts run by Mr. Biden in November reached a remarkable 92 percent of the general election level in 2020, compared to 88 percent of the general election level in the districts run by Mr. Trump. These numbers include up-shot estimates of the remaining untold votes by district, and it suggests that almost all Democratic gains since the November elections have been due to the relatively higher Democratic turnout.

The majority of democratic voters in Georgia are black – they make up about 30 percent of the total electorate – and it was these voters who drove the increased democratic turnout. Overall, voter turnout in counties where 80 percent or more of the electorate were black voters reached 93 percent of 2020 levels. In comparison, voter turnout in white working-class districts fell to 87 percent of the general election level.

In any election, it can be difficult to decide whether the outcome should be presented as high voter turnout from one side as opposed to low voter turnout from the other. In these elections, it is easier to argue that black and Democratic turnout was high than to say that Republican turnout was weak. The Republican turnout was extremely high for a runoff election. If analysts had been given advance notice of the GOP’s turnout, most would have assumed that Republicans were on track to win.

The relatively high turnout of the Democrats led in part to such a significant shift, as there was a relatively low turnout of blacks in the November elections. In November, the black percentage of Georgian voters appeared to have fallen to its lowest level since 2006. Black voter turnout increased, but to a lesser extent than non-black voter turnout. Partly for this reason, Democrats had reasonable grounds to hope that they could have a cheaper electoral base in the runoff than generally, even though they have tended to fare worse in the runoff in Georgia over the past two decades.

It will be some time before the black portion of the runoff can be pinned down with precision, but results from the district’s data and early votes suggest it may rise two points higher than the general election to a level that has not been seen in the state since Barack Obama’s re-election bid in 2012.

As a result, Democratic gains centered on the relatively black and democratic areas where superior Democratic turnout overwhelmed Republican support.

Democrats made their biggest gains in the predominantly black counties of the so-called Black Belt – a region named for its fertile soil but now linked to voters whose ancestors were enslaved to order it – as well as in the growing majority black suburbs south of Atlanta. It was the culmination of a voter campaign led in part by Stacey Abrams, who narrowly lost the governor’s race in 2018.

Democrats also won in the state’s few Hispanic-majority areas. Voter turnout fell far more sharply in these districts than anywhere else in the state. The democratic gains in these districts could be due to the fact that the proportion of blacks in the electorate increased in relatively different but predominantly Hispanic districts, or that the Latino voters who stayed at home were relatively likely to be Republicans in November support.

At the same time, the relatively limited Democratic gains in the Republican territories suggest that election preference has practically not changed since the November election, despite hundreds of millions of dollars in television advertising.

Democrats had reason to hope that they could change their minds. Mr Biden had run ahead of the Democratic Senate candidates in November, and they were trying to lure some of those voters to their side – especially after the president’s efforts to cast doubt on the November election outcome. Instead, Republican candidates in affluent areas – with median incomes over $ 80,000 a year – fared even better than in the general election and in areas where Republican candidates were furthest ahead of Mr Trump in November.

It’s hard to say whether Republican gains in these districts can be explained by underlying voter turnout shifts or an intentional shift to ensure divided government. If there is a silver lining for Republicans in the elections, the chances are that those voters – who are crucial in many competitive Congressional districts, even though not always in statewide elections – tend to act as controls against Democrats in the medium term as has often been the case in recent political history.

It won’t be much comfort right now.

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