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AP VoteCast: GOP voters in Georgia back Trump’s reckless claims of fraud

Photo by Matt Hamilton / Voters enter a polling place at Dawnville United Methodist Church in Dawnville, Ga., on Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021. (Matt Hamilton/Chattanooga Times Free Press via AP)

WASHINGTON (AP) — About three-quarters of voters who backed Republican candidates in Georgia’s Senate runoffs say President-elect Joe Biden was not legitimately elected in November, according to AP VoteCast, a survey of voters in Tuesday’s high-stakes Senate contests.

The poll of voters measured how deeply President Donald Trump’s false claims of fraud and misconduct have resonated with Republicans in the state. It comes as more than 1 00 Republicans in Congress have said they will mount an extraordinary challenge to Biden’s victory on Wednesday, a decision that is sharply dividing the party.

Despite the courts, state officials and the Justice Department finding no evidence of widespread voter fraud, roughly 9 in 10 of the Republicans’ backers said they lacked high confidence that votes in November’s presidential contest were accurately counted. Half said they have no confidence at all in the vote count. That’s roughly five times as many Republicans who said in November they had no confidence that votes would be counted accurately.

AP VoteCast surveyed more than 3,600 voters in the runoff elections that will determine which party will control the U.S. Senate. The poll points to a partisan divergence that has only worsened since November and suggests Biden may find it difficult to stitch the nation back together as it battles a resurgent pandemic and weakened economy.

While about 8 in 10 Republican voters approve of how Trump has handled the results of the election, Democratic voters almost universally disapprove. Most Democrats are very confident that votes were counted accurately.

If both Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock win in Georgia, their party would hold half of the 100 Senate seats, with Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris as the tiebreaker. But if their respective opponents, David Perdue and Sen. Kelly Loeffler, triumph, the GOP would have a slim Senate majority to challenge Biden and the Democrats running the House of Representatives.

The Senate elections remained too early to call late Tuesday, with the four candidates locked in tight contests and many ballots left to be tabulated.

About 6 in 10 Georgia voters said that control of the Senate was the single most important factor in their choice. However, Republican backers were more likely to prioritize holding a Senate majority than Democratic supporters.

With Biden winning Georgia by just 11,779 votes in November, the Senate races will likely be decided by turnout. Democratic areas performed strongly in early voting, suggesting that Republicans needed a strong showing of supporters to cast ballots Tuesday.

The Democratic get-out-the-vote operation appears to have been broader. About 6 in 10 Georgia voters said they were contacted on behalf of the Democratic candidates ahead of the election, compared to roughly half who were reached on behalf of the Republicans.

The election came after Congress and Trump approved an additional $900 billion in aid for an economy still muddling through the coronavirus outbreak. The spending package included expanded jobless benefits, $600 in direct payments to individuals earning up to $75,000 annually, and $284 billion to help smaller employers meet their payrolls.

Nearly two-thirds of all Georgia voters were pessimistic about the nation’s future. While Democrats’ attitudes have only improved somewhat, Republican views of the country have changed dramatically.

In November, about three-quarters of Republican voters in Georgia considered the nation on the right track. Now, about 7 in 10 say the country is headed on the wrong track.

A wide majority of Georgia voters — 7 in 10 — say Congress is doing too little to help the financial situations of individual Americans and small businesses in response to the pandemic. That view was held by majorities of Democratic and Republican voters alike, though roughly a quarter of Loeffler and Perdue voters said Congress was providing the right amount of assistance.

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