Although summer polls suggested Georgia might lose its red state-reign this 2016 election year, political experts agree that Georgia is not becoming blue, but is on a path toward purple.
In more recent peach state polls, Republican nominee, Donald Trump, has only been able to garner a very moderate GOP hold in Georgia, which is rare considering the state has not voted Democratic in almost 25 years. In fact, Georgia has only voted for two Democratic presidential candidates in the past 40 years: Bill Clinton back in 1992 and its very own Jimmy Carter in 1976 and 1980. Barry Hollander, a professor at the University of Georgia, teaching an undergraduate course on public opinion, believes Trump’s continuous, controversial remarks might explain why Georgia seems to be swinging this election cycle.
“The easy answer is Trump,” Hollander said. “It’s like barnacles on the bottom of the ship that accumulate and slow down that boat. Trump has all these barnacles growing on his campaign, the things he’s said, the people he’s pissed off, that is hurting him among enough traditional Republican voters that he’s doing less well than he should be.”
Trump’s contentious remarks about women, race, and religion have even caused Republicans such George W. Bush and John McCain to withdraw their support. However, data has shown there might be more to the equation than just Trump himself. According to a PEW Research Center study, Georgia’s demographics are changing, and point to a steady increase in the state’s minority populations, all of whom tend to vote more liberally. Jamie Carson, a political science professor at the University of Georgia who specializes in American politics, does not expect to see these demographic shifts mirrored in the voting booth. The issue, he explained, is that the demographics of the state are actually quite different than the voters of the state.
“Demographics are improving for the Democrats, but turnout still reflects more of a Republican pattern,” Dr. Carson said. “You’d have to increase voter registration rates and participation rates among African Americans and Hispanics…and then they all have to turn out.”
In fact, Ryan Williamson, a PhD candidate studying American elections at the University of Georgia, said that lower income voters, minority voters, and younger voters are all significantly less likely to show up at the polls than their more conservative counterparts. However, he still believes that these demographic shifts could mix Georgia’s red and blue voters together in 2016.
“Demographic shifts are contributing to a more purple-ish GA,” Williamson admitted. “But that appearance is being exaggerated by the presence of Trump. I don’t know that we’d see that close of a race with a more popular Republican candidate.”
Both Williamson and Carson believe the peach state is still at least decade or two away from being a true swing state like that of Florida or North Carolina. The two agree demographic shifts take years to happen, let alone for them to change the entire outcome of a presidential election.