Lewis Has Loyal and Steadfast Support

Blogging While Blue broke the story last month that Fulton County Superior Court Judge Michael Johnson was considering challenging longtime 5th District Congressman John Lewis in the 2012 Democratic Primary. Well, Johnson made it official in an email to his supporters on Monday. Coincidentally, Blogging While Blue commissioned a poll from 20/20 Insight last week on a range of issues including transportation, education, and national politics.

One question in the poll asked voters to rate several elected officials. Because 20/20 is an automated pollster that uses touchtone phone response, the 1 to 5 scale is an ideal way to directly register a voter’s sentiment about a person. After collecting the data, it is converted it to a 0 to 100 scale where 3 corresponds to a 50 – right in the middle. And because 3 is exactly in the middle, it gives people a neutral option, and removes the problems of how you quantify certain words – pollsters typically consider “fair” to be in the negative category, but there are people who eat lunch everyday at a place they consider to be only fair, while other people would never go back to a restaurant they considered was only fair.
20/20 has found that this temperature score is an excellent predictor of the vote that a candidate receives in an election, and it also allows us to look at the details of similar temperature scores to see the range of how people actually feel.
For Example, President Obama typically has a temperature of around 50 in most places, but if you look at the detail of the responses he’s got a lot of 1 ratings (worst) and a lot of 5 ratings (best), and not a lot of 3’s (neutral), which averages out to about 50. Basically, people either love him or hate him and there are not a lot of people who do not have strong opinions about him. Other candidates might similarly end up at 50 but have more 2’s, 3’s and 4’s which are more neutral ratings.

Congressman Lewis’ favorability among voters in the 5th district is extraordinarily high. The 5th District covers the City of Atlanta and parts of South Fulton County. Among elected officials tested in the poll the only person who exceeds his favorability in the district is President Obama. The 5th district is overwhelming Democratic and therefore anyone that challenges Lewis must do so in the Democratic Primary. That’s bad news for any challenger.
Lewis’ ratings among Democrats in his district are off the charts. Over 65% of people who rate Lewis give him a 100. These people are functionally never going to vote against him without a huge scandal taking place or some hint of impropriety. Neither of which has happened in his more than twenty five years serving the constituents of the 5th district. Furthermore, White Democrats in the 5th District are more likely to give Lewis a rating of 100 than African American Democrats.
White voters in the district, which is 38% White, have basically given Lewis an advantage that no challenger will be able to match. If Lewis sweeps the White vote as expected, the challenger would have to win three out of every four African American votes to defeat him. Highly unlikely in this race given that Lewis gets a rating of 100 from almost 60% of African American voters in the 5th District.
If an African American challenger goes after the White voters in the district they will get little traction and possibly alienate the African American voters. Conversely, if the challenger goes after Lewis’ African American base, the White voters in the district will likely still carry Lewis to victory. No one knows for sure what Michael Johnson is thinking by challenging Lewis, but like we mentioned in Blogging While Blue before, he may be trying to set himself up to be the likely successor when Lewis retires, because Lewis is untouchable in his district.

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