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Expert: Candidates benefit from name recognition in early polls

Oxendine and Barnes lead for now

POSTED: June 21, 2009 11:47 p.m.

If the primaries in the Georgia governor’s race had been held earlier this month, John Oxendine would be facing Roy Barnes on Election Day, according to an opinion poll.

The primaries still are more than a year away and the participants as well as the front-runners could change by then. And one political analyst said polls this early usually just indicate name recognition.

Strategic Vision, a public relation and public affairs company, conducted the telephone poll of 800 likely voters in Georgia, age 18 and older from June 12-14. The margin of sampling error is 3 percentage points. They were asked how they would vote in each primary if it "were held today."

Of those polled, 35 percent said they would vote for Georgia Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine, 13 percent for Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel and 12 percent for U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal. However, a whopping 32 percent said they remained undecided.

In a similar poll taken April 17-19, before Deal entered the race, Oxendine and Handel got nearly the same percentage, while Jack Kingston held onto third with 11 percent.

On the Democratic side, nearly half — 49 percent — asked in June said they would select former Gov. Roy Barnes if the primary "were held today." Some 30 percent said they would vote for Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker.

While Barnes came out on top in an April poll, months before he expressed any interest in the race, his lead did decline over the two polls. When asked in April, 56 percent said they would select Barnes.

The results are similar to those in a poll conducted last month by Insider Advantage for an Atlanta television station, though Barnes didn’t garner quite as large a percentage — just 38 percent — in that poll, while more than half remained undecided.

Matt Towery, president and chief executive officer of Insider Advantage, said name recognition gives Barnes a boost in polls conducted with the election more than a year away.

"This far out, it’s a measure of name ID," Towery said of Insider Advantage’s poll. "It really should not come as a huge surprise. As I’ve noted before, there is a difference between the way we have to poll for TV and newspapers and the way some other pollsters poll, say, those working for political candidates. We are not allowed to use titles, such as "former governor" or "attorney general" or "state representative" in describing candidates. The reason is, you have to poll it as it would appear on the ballot. All of these candidates would be higher (in the latest poll) if there was a description placed on them."

Both in April and earlier this month, the Strategic Vision poll also questioned Georgia voters on how our current leaders are doing their jobs.

In the June poll, at least half said they approve of the jobs being done by Gov. Sonny Perdue and Sens. Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson, a slight improvement for all three over the April poll.

But in both polls, two-thirds said they disapprove of the way Congress is performing its job.

In the Strategic Vision polls, approval numbers for President Barack Obama had slipped a bit from April, but remained right around 50 percent. Those results are in line with national polls conducted last week, which also showed Obama’s approval rating dropping a bit. A Wall Street Journal/NBC poll has his approval rating at 56 percent, while a New York Times/CBS poll had the president’s approval rating at 63 percent.

Strategic Vision works for political campaigns, while Insider Advantage typically conducts polls for news organizations.



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