Poll shows Georgia voters are worried, angry

Heading into Tuesday's primary elections for governor, Rob Hainer is looking for the answer to just one question: Who is going to bring jobs to Georgia?

Candidates who focus on immigration, gay rights or anything else will lose his vote. "That's not important to me," said Hainer, 39, who lives in Hiram and works for his brother's construction company. "Everything falls in line if you get the jobs."

A poll conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research for The Augusta Chronicle and 12 other members of the Georgia Newspaper Partnership found that across party, gender and racial lines Georgians head into the primaries worried about their economic futures and unhappy with the performance of their political leaders and institutions.

The poll found that nearly three of four Georgians are concerned about their household finances and job security, a sentiment that is casting a shadow over the state elections. The poll also found deep dissatisfaction with governmental leaders in Washington and Atlanta.

Fifty-two percent of Georgia's registered voters disapprove of President Obama's job performance, and 37 percent approve.

Clarence Miller's personal approval of Obama's job as president is "about 50-50," with the negative being two years without increases to the Social Security check the Augusta resident needs to pay for his medicine.

Obama still fares better than Congress in the minds of Georgia voters. The U.S. House and Senate together get only a 21 percent approval rating, with even Democrats showing their frustration with the institution their party leads.

Yet dissatisfaction with Con-gress only goes so far. As is often the case, voters give Congress low marks but are less upset with those who represent them: 47 percent of Georgia's registered voters approve of their congressional representative's job performance. Incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson gets the same 47 percent approval rating.

On the state level, however, Gov. Sonny Perdue is given a positive job performance rating by 45 percent, although two-thirds of Republicans approve. And among women, 44 percent disapprove of the governor's performance.

That's a far less favorable picture than in early 2008, when another Mason-Dixon poll found that 66 percent of respondents rated the governor's performance as good or excellent.

Still, Perdue fares better than the General Assembly. Only 39 percent of voters give the Legislature positive job-approval ratings, and among Republicans only 45 percent say the House and Senate, both of which are controlled by their party, are doing a good job.

Brad Coker, the managing director of Mason-Dixon Polling & Research, said the poll results confirm that many Georgians share Hainer's economic concerns.

"Everything pivots around the economy, and always number two is government spending and the deficit," Coker said. "This election is all about pocketbook issues."

Everything else, he said, is just noise this year. For example, while a large majority favor an Arizona-style immigration law for Georgia, and a majority support repealing the new federal health care law, when voters were asked their top issues, those topics fell by the side.

"Immigration is a sideshow; gay marriage is a sideshow; abortion is a side show," Coker said. "You want to get to the bulk of voters, you need to talk to them about pocketbook issues."

Kerwin Swint, a professor of political science at Kennesaw State University, said none of the top Republican candidates -- former U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal, former Secretary of State Karen Handel, former state Sen. Eric Johnson and Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine -- has a clear edge when it comes to economic matters.

"You've got some pretty diverse candidates there, with different backgrounds," Swint said. "I don't really know if any of them can lay claim to particularly having a hand up in that area."

The poll found that south Georgia had the greatest percentage of voters -- 61 percent -- who said they are "very concerned" about their household finances and job security. Add to that the 17 percent of voters who say they are "somewhat concerned," and south Georgia shows an incredible amount of unease about personal finances.

Greg Dean, a 56-year-old Republican from Brunswick, said he believes the federal government has been leading the country into socialism.

"I've been self-employed all my life, and I've gotten to live the American dream," the computer programmer said. "The fact that people are giving up on that dream, thinking they're gaining security, is mind-boggling."

Kass Caraballo, a 47-year-old Republican in Kennesaw, is similarly frustrated. The real estate agent has seen her earnings slide with the housing market, and now her husband, a helicopter pilot in the Army, is getting ready to go to the Middle East.

"I think priorities are put in the wrong place for our tax dollars, and we're being taxed to death just to grow our government," she said. "We're using tax dollars to grow government, and we're cutting teachers and education and that is the future of our country -- our children and education."

Education is the reason the normally party-line voter says that she might support Democrat Roy Barnes for governor.

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