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.
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:
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.