News Release: Faculty Experts, Politics

Dec. 3,  2008

Voter Turnout Key for Georgia Senate Race

Despite a heated Senate race between Georgia Republican incumbent Saxby Chambliss and Democratic challenger Jim Martin, the blowout win for Chambliss was no surprise, says Emory University political scientist Andra Gillespie.

"To win, Martin needed to get everybody back the second time and that was not going to happen."

"Jim Martin was always a long shot candidate. Tuesday was proof of that," Gillespie says. "This is still a Republican state. There was a lot of Obamania that helped sweep Martin into a runoff, but Obama's coattails weren't going to extend to this election."

The election came down to the best turn out. Although many new voters came out in November, they have not been trained to come back and vote again, she says. "To win, Martin needed to get everybody back the second time and that was not going to happen." 

The Martin campaign heavily used robo-calls, including ones recorded by the President-elect and his wife, but they were not effective. “Robo-calls do not work as a method to get people out to vote,” Gillespie says. "The best form of mobilization is face-to-face contact; if that is not feasible, then campaigns should use personal phone calls."

Gillespie is an assistant professor of political science at Emory whose research examines political mobilization and race, as well as competition between minority groups. Gillespie's experience as a pollster and consultant has helped shape her research into what works — and what doesn't — in minority politics today as new leadership emerges separate from the civil rights generation. 

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