A flood of negative advertising against both candidates in Georgia appears to be hurting Sen. Raphael Warnock's (D.) image more than Republican challenger Herschel Walker's in the final weeks of the election, according to an internal Walker campaign poll obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.
While the internal polling shows a tight race, consistent with independent surveys showing the race within the margin of error, Walker's pollster says the surveys show that criticism of Warnock is starting to take a toll on his favorability rating in the run-up to Election Day.
Warnock's favorability rating has dipped to 40 percent, a 5-point decrease since the campaign's previous poll taken 10 days ago, prior to the debate. The portion of respondents who view Warnock unfavorably has also increased 3 points, to 47 percent.
The findings come as Warnock has faced increased scrutiny over his church-owned apartment complex's attempts to evict low-income residents, which was first reported earlier this month by the Free Beacon. Warnock has also been hit with a deluge of negative ads highlighting his ex-wife's accusations that he tried to run her over with a car.
The poll also follows a debate between Warnock and Walker, in which the Republican went in with low expectations and avoided any significant blunders.
Opinions on Warnock are now on par with Walker, who is viewed favorably by 42 percent and unfavorably by 46 percent, according to the poll. By contrast, Walker's numbers have stayed fairly consistent since early October—when he was at 43 percent favorable and 47 percent unfavorable—despite an onslaught of negative advertising and news articles targeting him.
The Moore Information Group's Erik Iverson, a pollster for Walker, said this finding indicates that months of relentless negative media coverage of Walker are already "baked in" to voter perceptions, while coverage of Warnock's vulnerabilities is now starting to break through with voters.
"You have an 8-point swing over the last 10 days," said Iverson. "Generally speaking when you see movement in image, the ballot trails that by about two weeks."
Iverson said this trend has been most noticeable among soft Republicans, independents, and black voters.
Warnock has "seen a negative 25-point shift in his image among independents" and a 10-point negative shift among so-called soft Republicans from 10 days ago, according to Iverson.
The pollster said Warnock also saw a negative shift with black voters, 78 percent of whom viewed him favorably and 12 percent unfavorably in the early October poll. Now, 65 percent view him favorably and 21 percent view him unfavorably, according to the findings.
"A 22-percent drop among what is his very biggest core base of supporters is significant," said Iverson.
The poll shows a competitive race, within the 2-point margin of error. Forty-five percent of respondents say they would vote for Walker, 43 percent say they would vote for Warnock, and 5 percent say they would vote for the Libertarian candidate, Chase Oliver. Neither Walker nor Warnock is above the 50-percent threshold that would be necessary to avoid a runoff.
Iverson said his polling hasn't seen a trend of ticket-splitters who are voting for both Republican governor Brian Kemp and Warnock. But he said there are indications that soft Republicans voting for Oliver, the Libertarian candidate, could impact the race.
"It's soft Republicans; about 13 percent of them are voting Oliver. That's the issue," said Iverson.
The vast majority of respondents said they had seen, heard, or read something about both Walker and Warnock over the past few weeks. When asked what they saw, 17 percent recalled seeing negative ads about Walker regarding his family issues, such as allegations that he once paid for an abortion for his former girlfriend. Walker has denied the claim.
Another 10 percent recalled seeing negative information about Warnock regarding allegations that he tried to run over his wife with his car or neglected his children, up from 4 percent in early October. Warnock has denied these claims.
Forty-eight percent of respondents said the information they saw made them less likely to support Walker, while 46 percent said the information made them less likely to support Warnock.