A look at the partisan leanings of each T-SPLOST region

All of the polling I’ve seen on T-SPLOST has reinforced the presumption that the regional referenda will get more support from voters on the left than from voters on the right.

Most of that polling has focused on the Atlanta metro area, however, and there are a zillion potential variables that make predictions hard for some other regions, including the question of low turnout in July, the number of other races of local interest, the quality of the regional T-SPLOST project lists, and so forth and so on.

In other words, this post might end up being a big waste of time.

At minimum, I certainly am much closer to being able to name all of Georgia’s counties than I was a few days ago.

I did a lot of basic computations here, so it’s entirely possible that I got my numbers mixed up somewhere. If you see any problems, please let me know in the comments or get in touch via billdawers[at]comcast.net.

To get a better sense of the general partisan leanings of each region, I used the 2008 county-by-county breakdown of the vote for McCain vs. the vote for Obama. I added up the total votes per region and then came up with a regional winning margin in percentage terms. I simply threw out the tiny percentage of votes for other candidates. I’m sure this data exists somewhere, but I haven’t seen it published.

So here’s the winning margin in percentage terms in each T-SPLOST region for McCain or Obama.

Region 1, Northwest Georgia: +44.8

Region 2, Georgia Mountains: +54.2

Region 3, Atlanta: +15.4

Region 4, Three Rivers: +31.6

Region 5, Northeast Georgia: +21.2

Region 6, Middle Georgia: +5.0

Region 7, Central Savannah River Area: +1.6

Region 8, River Valley: +8.0

Region 9, Heart of Georgia Altamaha: +35.2

Region 10, Southwest Georgia: +6.0

Region 11, Southern Georgia: +28.8

Region 12, Coastal Georgia: +5.4

So, if Republican voters oppose the tax in the numbers suggested by the polls, T-SPLOST seems certain to fail in regions 1, 2, 4, 5, 9, and 11. A few notes about the regions where there is at least a chance of passage:

  • Even though there seems to be a growing consensus that T-SPLOST will fail in the Atlanta area, I think there’s an even chance of it passing. It might be the only region to approve it, which would certainly make for some tricky funding choices in the next legislative session.
  • Region 6 includes the relatively large counties of Bibb (Macon) and Houston (Warner Robins).
  • Region 7 is dominated by the large counties of Richmond and Columbia, both part of the Augusta metro area.
  • More than half of the voters in Region 8 will likely be in Muscogee County (Columbus)
  • Region 10’s largest county is Dougherty (Albany).
  • Region 12 includes Chatham County and the rest of the Savannah metro area, as well as Glynn County (Brunswick).

As I noted in a previous post, I don’t think that there will be a big enough turnout and large enough winning margin in Chatham County to overcome likely losses elsewhere in Region 12.

And, if the limited polling about partisan support for T-SPLOST is reflective of what will happen on July 31st, a similar pattern will play out in regions 3, 6, 7, 8, and 10.


  1. Interesting analysis Bill. I’d be interested to see a poll done region by region. It does seem the debate taking place in the Atlanta region has overshadowed everything. When people in rural Georgia complain that half their money is going to MARTA proponents should know they have serious problems.

    • seenbetrdayz says:

      Well, you look at somewhere like Crawford County, and they’re getting passing lanes out of the deal—on a highway where one car passes by every 30 minutes. It might be useful for passing tractors, I suppose.

      Safe to say that some places in Georgia might not be in on this T-SPLOST because they need to be involved, but because they had to think of some unnecessary improvement out of concern that they’d get nothing out of it, otherwise. And when you’re in a situation where you’re spending money just to be spending money, things turn wasteful.

  2. griftdrift says:

    Region 10 is going to be very interesting. You’d think it would be an easy “no”, but we’ve been begging the DOT for years to four lane 133 from Albany to Valdosta and have been have been ignored. Business leaders know this may be the only chance to get it done and they are pushing it hard.

    As a side note, all the leads in the local news last were about Saxby’s “split support”.

    • Bob Loblaw says:

      133 is a vital economic development cooridor and for safety reasons alone, should be 4-laned.

        • Bill Dawers says:

          It looks like widening of 133 in Colquitt and Dougherty counties will cost over $100 million — almost one quarter of the entire regional list. Voters in those two counties will probably make up more than a third of the regional voters. It will certainly be interesting to see how that plays out. Turnout will be key, too, especially since that region is one of the smallest in terms of population.

  3. Dave Bearse says:

    I think the results of the methodology overstate opposition, particularly rural in Georgia. Republicans in Georgia include go-with-the flow status quo supporters not infected with anti-government Tea Party sentiment.

    That said, I’m predicting that metro Atlanta TIA/T-SPLOST support in outlying counties will be higher than partisan/party affiliation and what others may predict.

    I’ll also predict support in Fulton and DeKalb will be less than expected.

    (Subjective, gut feel predictions not based on analysis.)

    Today’s AJC highlighted how the untie Atlanta campaign may be adversely affecting outstate TIA/T-SPOLST prosepcts. The Tea Party’s anti-government no matter waht message is spreading too.

    TIA/T-SPLOST failure will indicate the state is being ungovernable. The media dwells on Washington’s partisan gridlock. So what’s going on in Georgia?

    Dems are no longer effective as party in Georgia, the 45% Democrats in the state having less influence than the 15% Tea Partiers. I think this is a first example of the taking a page from the Tea Party playbook and refusing to comprimise. It’ll leave the state’s leadership to carry its own water or make accomodations.

    • Bill Dawers says:

      Here’s the piece from Jim Galloway about the confusion over Untie Atlanta: http://blogs.ajc.com/political-insider-jim-galloway/2012/07/14/%E2%80%98untie-atlanta%E2%80%99-isn%E2%80%99t-a-slogan-for-the-rest-of-georgia/?cxntfid=blogs_political_insider_jim_galloway

      A statewide SurveyUSA poll months ago showed that self-described moderates favored the T-SPLOST by a solid margin. Those who simply called themselves Republican also favored it. But there was strong opposition from self-described conservatives, from “strong Republicans”, and from right-leaning independents. In some rural regions, those categories will dominate the vote.

      All that said, I’ve been consistently surprised by the success of SPLOST votes here in Savannah and around the state.

    • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

      “TIA/T-SPLOST failure will indicate the state is being ungovernable.”

      The state (particularly the Atlanta Region) is virtually ungovernable to anyone other than the most-skilled engaging, nuanced and pragmatic politicians.

      The sharp political and social differences of ultra-liberal Intown urbanites and ultra-conservative OTP suburbanites and exurbanites must be taken into serious consideration when crafting transportation policy for a region with such sharply-polarized politics.

      It was quite foolish to expect hardcore anti-roadbuilding pro-transit Intowners to vote for a list that includes the construction of a new freeway in the remaining right-of-way on an abandoned proposed road that they killed 10 years ago.

      It was also quite foolish to expect hardcore anti-tax and anti-government OTP suburbanites and exurbanites to vote for a list that includes funding for the much-despised MARTA in any way, shape or form.

      Asking Intowners to vote to approve roadbuilding projects in the suburbs and asking suburbanites and exurbanites to vote to approve MARTA funding in the city just simply was NOT SMART.

  4. Here in NW GA region we are just too close to Atlanta. Television is saturated with pro-TSPLOST commercials about Atlanta’s traffic situation including mass transit, so a high percentage think our NW GA dollars are going to be used to build mass transit in Atlanta… they don’t realize all of the money raised in here NW GA stays in NW GA and will only be used for local road & highway projects. The folks running the pro-TSPLOST campaign are clueless. They are trying to sell this like a Happy Meal at McDonald’s. Voters want details about TSPLOST.

  5. chief alewife says:

    In regard to Mr. Bearse’s comment about the Tea Party and compromise. How would one compromise on a yes or no referendum?

    The TSplost is not about the regional project lists as the proponents wish us to think. It is about a top-down, elitist process designed to enrich the cronies of those in power.

    For example: the two year delay between enactment and referendum voting was calculated to allow the paving contractors to finish projects they had begun during the legislative debate, after Alabama passed a $3 billion road bond issue.

    TSplost should fail. If the elites wish to avoid using the GA DOT to do transportation policy and funding they need to buy a Constitutional Amendment to make it legal.

    • Dave Bearse says:

      Thanks for the honorific, but this place is pretty informal.

      One may comprimist by voting “yes” in the interest of the public weal, even with doubts or considerable objections.

      You’re making a point I sought to make in the other TIA thread. There will be no viable Tea Party Plan B. The Tea PArty beef is more with government than any projects list.

  6. debbie0040 says:

    Dave, you are not a tea party activist and you have absolutely no clue what you are talking about.

    We do have a plan B, you may not like it but we do have one. Do you think you can say the same thing over and over and it will become true?

    FYI, we were fully supportive of Rep. Setzler’s bill regarding T-SPLOST.

    No, we are not going to compromise our principles and vote for this tax because of the following reasons:

    1. Whole process and the fact we believe a regional taxing authority is un-Consitutional. Regions are set up wrong as well and the wrong way.

    2. Project list.

    3. Elected officials can find hundreds of millions of dollars to build a new stadium for the Falcons, they need to use those funds for transportation improvements.

    4. Elected officials are not trustworthy and we feel like the projects will be doled out to political cronies. Goes back to process.

    5. No cost benefit analysis has been run on the projects.

    6. New funding should come from different revenue streams – not just one.

    • GTKay says:

      Debbie, regardless of how you “feel,” GDOT awards projects by low bid. You keep saying the same thing over and over, too. You’ve accused GDOT of rigging the bidding process without proof. Either you are ignorant of the process, or you’re deliberately lying to prove your point. Since I don’t think you would outright lie,, I think you need to do your homework on this issue.

    • Dave Bearse says:

      “Do you think you can say the same thing over and over and it will become true?” Conservatives have successfully done it for years.

      A Plan B that has no chance of being implemented is no Plan at all.

  7. debbie0040 says:

    Bill, your analogy is flawed on Region 3. People were ticked off at W and company so many voted for change in region 3 or just did not vote.

    T-SPLOST is losing among African Americans in Fulton and DeKalb and just breaks even among Democrats. Democrats are also of broken promises from their elected officials and are sick of paying taxes.

    This bring me to the ballot questions.

    I think the ballot questions will drive conservatives to vote on July 31st. Conservatives are also fired up about defeating T-SPLOST and will also turn out in higher numbers than normal in primaries. Do you really think there will be excitement fromm voters that support T_SPLOST (Other than the people that stand to profit from it) I don’t really see people getting excited about voting to raise their taxes.

    • Bill Dawers says:

      It’s not really an analogy, just an attempt to establish a partisan lean one way or the other.

      I’m not quite sure what data you’re citing, but according to the most recent Rosetta Stone poll (https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B_KEK8-LWmzhYmctYmN6bVZRclk/edit?pli=1#), Democrats in the Atlanta region support the referendum 50.0% to 32.3% with 17.7% undecided. Residents of DeKalb/Fulton are 39.8% in favor, 42.8% opposed, and 17.4% undecided. Blacks are 46.9% in favor, 33.2% opposed, and 19.9% undecided.

      That poll shows that Republicans, independents, whites, and suburbanites are strongly opposed, but there are few undecideds in those groups.

      The numbers certainly indicate that the measure is likely to be defeated, but relatively small shifts in turnout, a relatively small difference in the composition of voters, and/or significant numbers of undecideds voting yes could make the vote quite close.

      • debbie0040 says:

        Breaking even=not above 50%


        ” A majority of black voters no longer support the measure for the first time. Pollster John Garst said opposition from state Sen. Vincent Fort and other community leaders has hurt the TSPLOST in more urban areas. Opposition has grown among Republicans since the last poll on June 29, while support among Democrats has almost dropped below 50 percent as well.”

        • Bill Dawers says:

          The referendum has an 18 point lead among Democrats and a 13 point lead among blacks. Once the undecided voters decide, the referendum will win handily for those groups.

          I wouldn’t call that “breaking even”; WSB’s report paints the numbers in the worst possible light.

          • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

            But, Mr. Dawers, there is no guarantee that those 18% of Democrats and 20% of blacks who are undecided will break in favor of the T-SPLOST, especially when the evidence seems to indicate that there have been so many voters who have switched from being for it to either being undecided or against it and especially with an increasing number of both Democrat and black political and civic leaders continuing to come out against the T-SPLOST.

            • Bill Dawers says:

              Even if less than half of the undecided black and Democratic voters broke in favor of T-SPLOST, it will still likely win handily (10+ points) among those groups. They aren’t all going to go one way. It’s just math.

              Of course, T-SPLOST proponents are hoping for a huge positive surge, which might be the only way the referendum will have any chance of passage.

              I’m beginning to agree with a comment I read here a couple of days ago arguing that the best chance of passage would have been to focus on making urban voters as happy as possible and maximizing the vote there.

              • Dave Bearse says:

                Urban voters have been taken for granted from day one. Fulton and DeKalb account for over a third of the region’s populaton, but got what, 4 seats on the Committee. The Governor had to interfene and take away Norcross’ Mayor Bucky Johnson’s vote on the Executive Committee to make room for Reed.

                Presumably other region’s Committee’s were similarly structured, with urban voters under-represented.

                One of the problems with Georgia’s leadership is that, with few exceptions, it isn’t state leadership. It’s district leadership and personal power. Look for state leadership to get around an important state issue in the 2013 session, re-establishing Milton County, what with education and transportation being laid by.

          • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

            With there being growing disdain amongst Intown Democrats over residents of Fulton and DeKalb counties being charged double the amount of residents in the other eight counties in transportation sales taxes and with there being growing disdain amongst black voters in the I-20 East Corridor about only getting a mere nearly-a-quarter-of-a-billion-dollars ($225 million) in massively-upgraded bus service (only $225 million in bus service, what an insult!) instead of the big fancy choo-choo train that the major regional jobs center, educational institution and medical cluster at Emory University in North DeKalb is getting by way of the Clifton Corridor (it’s not fair, I know), it is quite possible that many of those undecided Democrat and black voters could break against the tax in the end.

  8. chief alewife says:

    Mr. Bearse sees a “yes” vote as a compromise.

    That was my former spouse’s definition as well.

    Contrarily, I am going to follow the advice of a one-time Atlanta resident, Gene Debs:

    “It’s better to vote for what you want, and not get it, than to vote for what you don’t want, and get it.”

  9. Newtster says:

    Savannah Mayor Edna Jackson tells the inner city folks that they need to vote for T SPLOST so they can “get their fair share”, as though the funds from T SPLOST are, indeed, free money. I was at the Town Hall when Alderwoman Mary Osborne told the assemblage that if they did not vote for T SPLOST “….then $ 250 MILLION dollars is just going to disappear”. The misinformation in Chatham has been reprehensible, and it is going to be nip and tuck, due to the lying and the misinformation, which is really unfortunate since the people being misled are the ones who get hurt the worst with a regressive sales tax on food and medicine. If Chatham is close, then the highly negative votes in Glynn and Camden will defeat T SPLOST, as it SHOULD BE defeated. The Chatham advocates at the Chamber and the Savannah Morning News has been unashamed in misleading the Chatham residents about the two most important projects (their determination) as DeRenne and the widening of I-16. DeRenne will not be completed, according to GDOT and the Final Report, until 2020. The widening of I-16 does not even START until 2020, and it is only fifty percent funded. Do you think the Savannah Morning News has told their readers THAT ?

    • Bill Dawers says:

      Actually, I have mentioned the total cost of the I-16 widening and the T-SPLOST contribution in my last two Sunday City Talk columns in the Savannah Morning News. I have not had space to say much about the timetables, but I think it’s a given that a 10-year tax wouldn’t result in immediate completion of so many projects.

      I agree with a number of your other statements.

      • Daddy Got A Gun says:

        Alot of the projects assume substantial federal dollars will be available. What happens if a future administration/regime diverts the gas taxes to fund health care? If we move to more electric cars, gas taxes will decrease. If that happens, we won’t get enough money back from the gas taxes to fund these projects or any other projects.

  10. Baker says:

    Transit in other states is funded by the whole state. The increased revenue in the city helps to offset those taxes and helps fund programs in rural areas etc. etc.

    • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

      But Georgia is not like any other state with an ultra-liberal major city surrounded by ultra-conservative suburbs and exurbs in a sharply-polarized Atlanta Region.

      There are pronounced political differences between the city and the ‘burbs in many major metropolitan regions, but the differences between Metro Atlanta’s city and ‘burbs seem to be much more pronounced than in most metro regions.

      Unlike in other states dominated by very large metropolitan areas, our political climate does not permit transit (especially MARTA) to be funded by the whole state, it never has and it never will and, as the building public backlash against the T-SPLOST is showing, it is an extremely counterproductive waste of time to attempt to enact that kind of very unpopular transportation-funding policy in this metro area.

  11. I Miss the 90s says:

    Of course the right-wing wants the T-SPLOST to fail. If it passes it will create jobs and make commerce more efficient…those are two things that the right-wing does not like government doing (in other words, they only want government to fail).

    It is clear that GA (not just Alanta) needs transportation infrastructure improvement. Guess what? It will not be free. No money = No improvements.

    That money will come in one of a few ways (or some combination): 1) Taxes (which none of you seem to want to pay); 2) Federal Grants (which none of you want); 3) the benevolence of private charity (which is non-existent); 4) User fees (toll roads).

    I know a lot of you already hate the Lexus Lane (aka HOT Lane)…get ready for more of them.

    The last option is to do nothing…which is what is most likely to happen for the next year or two. I am not sure if that is enough time to crown a new capital of the South, but at this point it seems inevitable that Georgia’s economic future is bleak.

    Why? Because the majority of residents of the State of Georgia seem to not care about the future of their home state…they only care about scoring ideological points. Do not make the mistake of believing that economic interests outside of GA are not paying attention to this. GA has been becoming a more difficult sell for out-of-state businesses as a place to set-up shop. The airport is not enough anymore. The educational achievement levels in GA will not attract much 21st century industry and I have a hard time seeing how Burger Kings and Walmarts are going to help GA’s economy.

    Georgia can ill afford another reason to convince business to consider other states.

    • Harry says:

      Actually, an additional 1% burden on employees and consumers would cause many businesses (especially retailers) to reduce workforce and leave the state.

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