Poll: Atlanta voters want planned police training center on ballot, no new Fulton County jail

New polling shows that Atlanta voters have some strong opinions on the controversial planned Public Safety Training Center and the Fulton County Jail.

Progressive think tank Data for Progress released the results of a poll on both issues Monday afternoon.

According to the poll, which surveyed more than 450 likely voters in Atlanta for three days in September, nearly 60% of voters want the future of the police training center, which advocates have nicknamed "Cop City," on the ballot.

The survey also found those numbers included 73% of all Democrats, 51% of third-party or independent voters, and 18% of Republicans. 

While the majority agreed that it should be on the ballot - opinion was more split on whether they would vote to repeal the City of Atlanta's decision to create the training center with 44% saying they would vote to repeal and 39% saying they would vote against the initiative.

The majority of Atlanta voters also said that they believed that the majority of those demonstrating against the training center are "not militant anarchists" and that peaceful protestors "have been wrongfully arrested."

The Atlanta City Council approved building the proposed $90 million Atlanta Public Safety Training Center in 2021, saying a state-of-the-art campus would replace substandard offerings and boost police morale, which is beset by hiring and retention struggles in the wake of violent protests against racial injustice that roiled the city after George Floyd was killed by police in 2020.

Currently, a petition signed by more than 116,000 Atlanta residents attempting to put the training center up for a vote remains in limbo after officials say it was submitted past the deadline.

Attitudes toward the Fulton County Jail 

Data for Progress' researchers say they found that, while most voters want Fulton County leaders to address the root causes of overcrowding at the deteriorating Fulton County Jail, they are hesitant to build a new facility.

Fulton County’s main jail, which opened in 1989 in a neighborhood west of downtown Atlanta, has been plagued by overcrowding, unsanitary conditions and violence. Six people have died in Fulton County custody since the end of July.

Fulton County Sheriff Pat Labat says the jail’s walls are crumbling. Last year, Labat’s deputies wheeled wheelbarrows of makeshift knives pulled from jail walls into a county commission meeting to show how decayed conditions and violence feed each other.

In recent months, Labat has campaigned to build a new jail, which could cost $1.7 billion or more. Fulton County Commission Chairman Robb Pitts has said he wants to seek other solutions, in part because such an expensive undertaking would probably require a tax increase on Fulton County’s million-plus residents.

The poll found that 52% of voters - the majority being Democrats and Independents, would not build a new $1.7 billion jail facility that would be paid for, in part, through an increase in property taxes.

Instead, voters polled said they would prefer that officials "address the root causes of overcrowding" and "invest in community support."

You can read the full results of the survey below:

The Associated Press contributed to this report.