Bookman: Trump support with Old Georgia leaves New Georgia impatient

Our columnist Jay Bookman says that as impeachment proceedings against President Trump begin this week, a new poll shows a stark divide between Old Georgia and New Georgia. Last Friday, protesters at a Trump's rally in Atlanta called for his impeachment. John McCosh/Georgia Recorder

With historic impeachment proceedings now underway in Washington, Georgians appear to be deeply torn both about the job performance of President Trump, his re-election and whether his actions in Ukraine justify investigation and perhaps removal.

According to a new poll conducted by the University of Georgia for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 54% of Georgians say they approve of the impeachment inquiry while a minority of 44% oppose it. Trump’s job approval numbers are similar, with 54% disapproving and 44% approving.

According to that poll, Trump trails Democrat Joe Biden by nine percentage points in a theoretical 2020 matchup here in Georgia. He also trails Bernie Sanders by four points and Elizabeth Warren by 3.4 points. Pete Buttigieg and Kamala Harris also hold statistically insignificant leads over Trump.

With the election a year away and the Democratic field so unsettled, it’s important not to give those numbers too much weight. A lot can and will happen between now and then, in Washington, on the campaign trail, and in the hearts and minds of voters. But what I continue to find most telling about this and other polls is the division it demonstrates between what we might call New Georgia and Old Georgia.

For example, among Georgians aged 65 and older – Old Georgia, so to speak – Trump enjoys a 6.7 percentage point advantage over Biden. But that’s the only age demographic in which Trump leads. Among those 44 and younger – New Georgia – Trump trails Biden by an astounding 23 percentage points.

Among those younger, New Georgia voters, Trump trails socialist Bernie Sanders by 19 points and Wall Street nightmare Elizabeth Warren by 16.

Another way to draw a distinction between Old Georgia and New Georgia is by education. Among Georgians with a high school education or less, Trump enjoys a 56% approval rating, with 40% disapproving. Within that group, Trump holds a 17-point advantage over Biden.

But among Georgians with a college or graduate degree, those approval numbers reverse. Just 39% approve of Trump, while 61% disapprove.

Those numbers help to explain how Hillary Clinton carried Cobb and Gwinnett counties in 2016, the first time those large suburban counties went blue in a generation. They also explain how a black Democrat running on a gun-safety program beat a Republican incumbent in Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District. If anything, the trends that produced those outcomes appear to be accelerating rather than easing under the corrosive Donald Trump.

But there are deeper implications. The cultural, ethnic and racial divisions that still sunder older Americans and Old Georgia – and that still form the foundation of Republican politics – have little or no relevance to New Georgia. They’ve grown up in this world that some of their elders find so disconcerting; they’re comfortable with their place in that world and they’re just not taking the bait. The resentments and fears of their parents and grandparents hold no power over them. To the contrary, they actively reject that brand of politics and the politicians who truck in such nonsense.

In fact, they grow increasingly impatient and frustrated while watching their Boomer elders still refighting old battles over race and religion that they find irrelevant, while the issues that loom large in their own lives, from rapid climate change to income inequality and college debt are all but ignored. They’ve begun to wonder why people who can’t operate their own TV sets should still be running the country, and after looking around at what’s going on, they may have a point.

Jay Bookman
Jay Bookman covered Georgia and national politics for nearly 30 years for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, earning numerous national, regional and state journalism awards. He has been awarded the National Headliner Award and the Walker Stone Award for outstanding editorial writing, and is the only two-time winner of the Pulliam Fellowship granted by the Society of Professional Journalists. He is also the author of "Caught in the Current," published by St. Martin's Press.