Alabama Senate Election Is A Toss Up, But Moore Seems To Be Favored

Polling remains uncertain in the Alabama Senate race, but the odds favor Roy Moore.

Roy Moore Doug Jones

In twenty-four hours, Alabama voters will be voting in a high-profile Special Election between Republican nominee Roy Moore and Democratic nominee Doug Jones. Ordinarily, of course, a statewide race in Alabama even for a seat that could have an impact on the balance of power in the Senate would not be getting much national attention since it would be obvious that the Republican nominee would win the election. This is especially true for Senate races, where Democrats have been shut out for some twenty-five years now. This, however, has been anything other than an ordinary Senate election thanks to the identity of the Republican nominee, former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court Roy Moore, who won the runoff election against Senator Luther Strange in the race to succeed Jeff Sessions in the Senate. Moore has had a long and controversial history in Alabama politics, having been elected as Chief Justice twice only to be removed from office for failure to comply with the orders of a Federal District Court, first with regard to the removal of a religious monument on the grounds of the Supreme Court building and the second time for his refusal to comply with the Supreme Court’s decision on same-sex marriage in Obergefell v. Hodges. That controversy took a back seat to some degree, though, when reports began to come out last month regarding Moore’s apparent history of inappropriate contact with teenage girls when he was in his 30s, including two reports of what clearly amounts to sexual assault. Since then, Moore has seen his numbers fall in the polls, and the candidacy of Democratic nominee Doug Jones has gotten a boost normally not seen for a Democrat in Alabama.

Based on polling, though, it seems clear that Moore is likely to win on Tuesday, at which point Republicans in Washington and around the country are likely to have a lot to answer for.

On the optimistic side for Jones, there’s a new poll from Fox News Channel that puts the Democrat ahead of Moore by double digits:

Democrat Doug Jones holds a 10-point lead over Republican Roy Moore among likely voters in deep red Alabama.

Greater party loyalty plus higher interest in the election among Democrats combined with more enthusiasm among Jones supporters gives him the advantage in the race to fill the U.S. senate seat previously held by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

That’s according to a Fox News Poll of Alabama voters conducted Thursday through Sunday using traditional polling techniques, including a list-based probability sample with both landlines and cellphones.

Jones receives 50 percent to Moore’s 40 percent, with 1-in-10 undecided (8 percent) or supporting another candidate (2 percent) — which could make a difference Tuesday.  That’s even truer with such an unconventional election with unconventional candidates.

This race’s uniqueness is significant.  It is impossible to know who will show up to vote in a special election to fill a seat in the middle of a term in an off-year.  And it’s December, a time when people expect to be going to the shopping mall, not the voting booth.

On top of that, accusations of sexual misconduct against Moore emerged November 9.  That’s just a month before the December 12 election.  Since then, he has repeatedly denied the allegations, and after the GOP initially pulled its support, the party ultimately backed Moore.

By a 6-point margin, Alabama voters believe the allegations against Moore are true (39-33 percent).  They were more evenly divided last month, believing the accusations by just 1 point (38-37 percent).  About one quarter, 27 percent, feel it is too soon to say or have no opinion.

Among Republicans, 13 percent believe the accusations are true, 60 percent say they aren’t, and 26 percent are unsure.  In November, it was 13-62 percent (26 percent unsure


Jones’s 10-point edge is outside the poll’s three percentage-point margin of sampling error.  Last month, Jones was ahead by 8 points among likely voters and by 9 among the larger group of registered voters (November 13-15, 2017).  In the new poll he’s up by 6 among registered voters.

Among just the 46 percent of Alabama voters who are “extremely” interested in the race, the Democrat’s lead widens to 53-40 percent.

Jones’s lead comes mostly from nonwhites, younger voters, and women.  He’s the choice of nonwhites by 76 points (83-7 percent), by 31 points among voters under age 45 (59-28), and by 20 among women (54-34).  That jumps to 46 points among women under age 45 (67-21 percent).

More Democrats (50 percent) than Republicans (45 percent) are “extremely” interested in the election.  And more Democrats plan to vote for Jones (90 percent) than Republicans plan to vote for Moore (81 percent).

The small subgroup of independents breaks for Jones by 29 points.

Moore is preferred among whites by 20 points (55-35 percent) and whites without a college degree by 33 points (61-28 percent).

Support for Moore among white evangelical Christians is down 8 points since last month: it was 73 percent in November and stands at 65 percent now.

And his advantage among men has dropped from 12 points last month to just 3 points now.  In addition, Republican men (41 percent) are less likely than GOP women (50 percent) or Democratic men (53 percent) to be “extremely” interested in the race.

“Moore might prevail if only the people who typically vote in Alabama elections turn out Tuesday, which is often what happens in special elections,” says Democratic pollster Chris Anderson, who conducts the Fox News Poll with Republican counterpart Daron Shaw.

“But this appears to be a special, special election with blacks and young voters animated by a caustic Republican candidate and the chance of winning a statewide election with national implications, and at the same time some Republicans and many moderates are turned off by Moore, too.”

Countering these numbers, though, are a string of other polls that show Moore leading in the final days of the race:

Republican Roy Moore has widened his lead over Democrat Doug Jones, according to the most recent polls in the Alabama Senate race.

Two polls – the first by the Trafalgar Group and the second by Gravis - show Moore leading by as much as 5 points. The polls come just ahead of Tuesday’s election and weeks after allegations surfaced that Moore had sexual contact with several teenage girls in the 1970s. The allegations led to calls for Moore to exit the race though he denies the charges.

The Trafalgar Group poll shows 48 percent of respondents said they plan to vote for Moore with 3 percent saying they are “leaning” towards the GOP nominee. Forty-one percent said they plan to vote for Jones with 5 percent “leaning” that way. Slightly more than 3.3 percent said the plan to vote for someone else.

The poll was conducted Dec. 6-17 among 1,419 respondents.

The second poll, this one conducted by Gravis Marketing, shows 49 percent of the respondents plan to vote for Moore compared to 45 percent who said the same about Jones. Among undecideds, 24 percent said they are leaning towards Moore; 27 percent were leaning towards Jones; and 49 percent haven’t made up their minds who to support

The same poll shows 43 percent of Alabamians believe the allegations against Moore while 37 percent do not. Twenty percent of respondents said they were unsure if the allegations were true.

Forty-percent said they do not trust Roy Moore compared to 40 percent who said they do. Thirteen percent are uncertain. The poll was conducted Dec. 5-8 among 1,245 likely voters.

Yet another poll shows Moore leading Jones by nearly the same amount that the Fox News poll has Jones up over Moore:

In a poll released less than 24 hours before the polls open on Tuesday, Alabama Senate Republican nominee Roy Moore has taken his biggest lead in weeks.

In the Emerson College poll, Moore has seized a 9-point lead over Democrat Doug Jones in polling done in recent days.

Limited information was first available this morning on the Emerson podcast but more details results of the polls are expected to be released later Monday.

The poll sampled 600 likely voters and data was collected using both an Interactive Voice Response system of landlines only and an online panel provided by Survey Sampling International.

The Emerson poll last week had Jones trailing by just 3 points.

On the podcast, Emerson pollster Spencer Kimball described Moore’s lead as “significant.”


“What we’ve noticed is Moore’s favorability (rating) has really risen over the past three weeks,” Kimball said. “He took a real dive after the allegations came out around Veterans Day and slowly built himself up back up to 45-45 favorable/unfavorable opinion.

“But most likely it is this Trump endorsement. Trump is very favorable in Alabama. He carries a 55 favorable rating right now and that’s lower where it has been over the past two months of polling this state. We know he carries some coattails. That’s most likely the reason Moore has been able to extend his lead up to 9.”

Trump formally endorsed Moore last Monday after previously indicating support. And at a rally last Friday in Pensacola, Fla., Trump praised Moore and urged Alabama voters to back him at the polls. Voters may also be hearing from Trump today via a robocall he recorded over the weekend for Moore.

Taking all of this last minute polling into account, we see that Roy Moore has a slight advantage in the race, but that the possibility of a Jones win is not beyond the realm of possibility. In the RealClearPolitics average, Moore stands at 48.4% and Jones stands at 45.9%, giving Moore a 2.5 point lead. This is a far narrower lead than you would ordinarily expect in a state such as Alabama, where President Trump won last year by more than 600,000 votes and where Jeff Sessions ran unopposed in the 2014 midterms and Richard Shelby won re-election by more than 600,000 votes in 2016. It’s worth noting, though, that Moore’s own bids for electoral office have proven to be more controversial. When he ran for the Republican nomination for Governor in 2006 he lost overwhelmingly to incumbent Bob Riley. When he ran for the GOP Gubernatorial nomination again in 2010, he ended up coming in fourth place in a crowded field. Most recently, when he ran for his old seat as Chief Justice in 2012, he only won by 3.7 points in an election year that saw Mitt Romney win the state by more than 22 points. All of this suggests that Moore is a controversial enough figure that his electoral successes are limited, but who is still able to win in a state that is deeply, deeply red in most cases.

In any case, the RealClearPolitics chart shows the race tightening in the final days, but with Moore in the lead:

Alabama RCP Chart 121117

Part of the issue here is that it’s difficult to poll Special Elections since they are typically held at odd times of the year. Turnout is usually much lower than it would be for a regular General Election, and even the smallest variation in turnout models has a big impact. With this Special Election coming two weeks before Christmas, predicting turnout is likely doubly difficult. Based on the poll average, the advantage appears to be in Moore’s favor, but the possibility that Doug Jones could pull off a win isn’t entirely out of the question. For that to happen, though, it seems as though a number of factors need to come together in his favor. First of all, turnout tomorrow will probably need to be higher than it would ordinarily be for a Special Election in December. If it is, that would suggest that anti-Moore voters have been motivated to come out and vote in a race that they otherwise might have ignored. Additionally, Jones will need to see good turnout among the African-American base of the Democratic Party in Alabama, a voting bloc that has not exactly shown a lot of interest in this race so far. Toward that end, Jones campaigned over the weekend with New Jersey Senator Cory Booker and former Massachusetts Governor Devall Patrick. Reports this morning also indicated that the Jones campaign will be utilizing a get out the vote robo-call campaign featuring former President Obama and former Vice-President Joe Biden directed at Democratic voters in general and minority voters in particular.

Obviously, I would prefer to see Doug Jones to win this election. Even leaving aside the sexual allegations against Moore, which alone should be disqualifying in the mind of any decent human being, Roy Moore’s history and his positions on controversial issues makes it clear that he does not belong in the United States Senate. This, after all, is a man who has claimed in the past that there are towns in the United States that are under the control of “Sharia Law,” a claim that is demonstrably untrue. He has compared the Koran to Hitler’s Mein Kampf and argued that Muslim-Americans should not be permitted to hold a seat in Congress, a position he said he continued to hold as recently as October. In 2005, Moore suggested that homosexuality should be illegal, ironically and most likely unconsciously mimicking the law of the Muslim nations that Moore cites as examples of the kind of America the left wants to create. He has also at times blamed the September 11th attacks on America’s tolerance for homosexuality, although it’s worth noting that he has also at times blamed those attacks on atheists and as recently this year blamed the attacks on the nation “turning away from God.” Just over the weekend, a 2011 recording surfaced in which Moore suggested that America would be a better place if every Constitutional Amendment after the Bill of Rights were repealed, something that would include removing the Amendments that ended slavery, granted equal rights to all people born in the United States, guaranteed the right of African-Americans, women, and Americans under between the age of 18 and 21 the right to vote, and which outlawed poll taxes. Moore has also openly expressed admiration for Vladimir Putin.

Given all of this, any reasonable, rational human being should reject Moore out of hand. This, however, is Alabama and one can’t dismiss the state’s history of voting Republican out of hand no matter how controversial the nominee might be. As I note above, the race is close enough that Doug Jones could pull off a win. My gut, though, tells me that Alabama will stay red.

Update: A Monmouth poll released after this post was written makes clear just how much turnout matters in tomorrow’s election:

Alabama’s closely watched Senate special election could swing either way depending on who shows up to vote Tuesday, according to a new Monmouth University poll, which showed Democrat Doug Jones and Republican Roy Moore leading under different turnout models.

If the turnout for Tuesday’s special election looks like the 2014 midterm, Moore has a 48 percent to 44 percent lead over Jones. But if the election looks like turnout models based on the most high-profile statewide election of 2017 so far, last month’s gubernatorial race in Virginia, the two men are tied at 46 percent of the vote. And if voter demographics resemble the 2016 presidential election, Jones has 48 percent of the vote to Moore’s 45 percent, according to Monmouth.

Patrick Murray, the director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, said the major differences in the turnout model would be increased turnout in Birmingham, the state’s largest city, and in 12 counties that are part of the state’s Black Belt. The pollsters also allocated undecided and write-in voters to either Jones or Moore based on other questions about party preference, the impact of President Donald Trump’s endorsement of Moore and their opinions of the two candidates. The allocations aim to compensate for voters who might not be willing to admit they plan to vote for Moore because of the allegations.

“Basically, the various turnout and vote intent models suggest that a Moore victory is the more likely outcome, but there is still an opening for Jones. He needs to get relatively higher turnout in Democratic areas and keep GOP-leaning voters who are uncomfortable with Moore from ultimately choosing him once they get into the privacy of the voting booth,” Murray said.

The poll also found Jones is more popular than Moore: Forty-five percent of voters have a favorable opinion of him, while 37 percent have an unfavorable opinion. Thirty-seven have a favorable opinion of Moore, and 48 percent have an unfavorable opinion.

Don’t get your hopes up, but tomorrow night could end up being quite interesting.


FILED UNDER: Campaign 2017, Congress, US Politics, , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook


  1. michael reynolds says:

    Finally the Republican Party will achieve unity between its Nazi and its child molester wings. I’m only sorry that child rapist and former Republican Speaker Denny Hastert isn’t free to join in.


  2. Neil Hudelson says:

    Underscoring just how hard it is to model this race, SurveyMonkey had an interesting blog post over the weekend, in which they slightly tweaked their model and swung the poll results from +8% for Jones to +8% to Moore.

    My take, for what it’s worth: It’s a tossup, and it will come down to either how successful Jones is at GOTV, especially in urban areas, or how much the GOP base is dis/inclined to go to the polls just two weeks before Christmas.

    Hot take, I know.


  3. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    I’d love to see Jones win, but it may actually be for the best if Moore wins. No matter who wins the current math in the Senate won’t change that much; the margin of error for Republicans just gets tighter. On the other hand, Moore winning will allow Republicans to be tarred with this lunatic for all of 2018. For the GOP (Gross Old Perverts) it will be the definition of a pyrrhic victory. As pointed out above – his crazy goes way beyond child molestation. Once in the Senate, and emboldened by his election, he will be a loose cannon. There will be instantaneous calls for an ethics investigation. It will probably intensify the Republican Parties ongoing civil war. It’ll actually be fun to watch. And if we are going to be forced to stand by and watch the Republic be destroyed, we might as well have some entertainment to go along with it.

    An OT note…Let’s all be thankful the blast in NYC, this morning, wasn’t worse. Also, Denture-Don’s racist travel ban would not have stopped it.


  4. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.) has asked the Senates Sergeant at Arms to take steps to protect the teenagers in the Senate Page Program if the guy who prances around with a tiny gun and a cowboy costume is elected.

    “…It would be unconscionable for Congress not to be vigilant and proactive in taking precautions to safeguard these children given the well sourced allegations against Moore…”


  5. CSK says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl:

    This is pretty much my take. If Moore wins, he’s a huge, dead, decomposing, smelly albatross around the the collective neck of the Republican Party.


  6. JKB says:

    Politics is the art of the possible. And it will be far easier for the people of Alabama to get Roy Moore to act in their interests than it will be Jones.

    “I do not believe that the solution to our problem is simply to elect the right people. The important thing is to establish a political climate of opinion which will make it politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right thing. Unless it is politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right thing, the right people will not do the right thing either, or it they try, they will shortly be out of office.”

    ― Milton Friedman


  7. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:


    it will be far easier for the people of Alabama to get Roy Moore to act in their interests

    Well…lets’ see:
    Is kicking them off their insurance in their interest?
    Is raising their taxes in their interest?
    Is taking the right to vote away from minorities, women, and young people, in their interest?
    Is Child Molestation in their interest?


  8. michael reynolds says:

    You know what kind of people excuse child molestation? Not good people. In fact, there are only two classes of people who defend child molesters: amoral pigs and child molesters.


  9. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @michael reynolds:

    In fact, there are only two classes of people who defend child molesters: amoral pigs and child molesters and would-be child molesters.



  10. gVOR08 says:

    If forced to make an even money bet, I’d take Moore, but I don’t claim to know what’s going to happen. All I’m sure of is that I’d hate to be responsible for the voter turnout model in AL, and that if Jones wins Republicans will freak.


  11. CSK says:


    If Jones wins,, The Conservative Treehouse, The Gateway Pundit, and will be volcanic with semi-literate crackpot conspiracy theories to explain it. Here, let me preview them for you:

    1. George Soros bought it.
    2. Barack Obama and his cadre of Muslim Marxists manufactured thousands of fake ballots.
    3. Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan paid off all the polling place workers to rig the voting machines.


  12. CSK says:

    This is truly nauseating: Moore’s most recent campaign ad features him being interviewed by a 12-year-old girl, presumably to prove that he can be trusted alone with a female child without attempting to maul her developing breasts and genitals.


  13. Kylopod says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl:

    I’d love to see Jones win, but it may actually be for the best if Moore wins.

    I disagree. There may be silver linings to a Moore win, but a Jones win is clearly preferable from a Democratic perspective. It will immediately put control of the Senate in play, something that would have seemed near impossible before. If Jones wins, then all Dems need to do in order to gain a majority in the Senate is win Nevada and Arizona, and hold on to their seats in the 10 Trump states–which may sound daunting but in fact most of those candidates look in at least reasonably healthy shape for reelection. (The only one I’d truly be concerned about is Claire McCaskill, whose approval ratings are nearly underwater. But that’s something a general pro-Democratic wave might be able to overcome.)

    Getting 51 seats in the Senate would be HUUUUGE. It would potentially give Dems a veto on GOP Court appointments. Of course I wouldn’t expect Jones to be a reliable Democratic vote on everything, but I’m certain it would at least make it a lot harder for Trump to install extremists on the Court for the next few generations.

    The difference between 51 Democrats and 51 Republicans (including Pence) isn’t just a difference of a few numbers–it will have enormous consequences for the future of the country.


  14. Kylopod says:

    Reading about the two campaigns over the past few days makes me think there are shades of Dewey vs. Truman in this race. Jones is really doing what he can to secure votes, while Moore is mostly sitting on the sidelines, like the hare to Jones’ tortoise.

    Note here that I am not predicting that Jones will necessarily win. There’s still an awful lot stacked against him. But I do think he’s done as much as he possibly could to make it happen. Unlike 2016 with Clinton, if Jones loses that’s entirely on the heads of Alabamans, not on Jones.


  15. Tyrell says:

    Let me make this clear: I am not a supporter of Judge Roy. Recent polls have him ahead. I think that if the news media had cooled things, Jones would be ahead. They went in there a stirring up trouble and have simply created a backlash. A lot of people in Alabama probably don’t like being told who to vote for, how they are a bunch of white racists, and how bad they are. Few people do. I know I wouldn’t. And of course some of the news media running the “evangelical” angle attacking churches. All this outside money coming in have people of Alabama feeling they are being run over. They are not going to take it.
    Let me repeat myself: I am not a supporter of Judge Moore.
    The news media messed all this up.


  16. An Interested Party says:

    The news media messed all this up.

    OMG! You mean the news media was actually doing its job!? You know, reporting the n-e-w-s…


  17. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @CSK: EEEEWWWWWW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


  18. CSK says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’nint cracker:

    Yeah, I know. But you have to wonder how many morons will be taken i by this disgusting farce.