Poll Shows Democrat Doug Jones Within Six Points Of Roy Moore

A sign of hope that Alabama voters could end up rejecting the far-right theocratic politics of Roy Moore? Possibly.

Roy Moore Doug Jones

The first poll after the runoff election in Alabama that saw controversial former Judge Roy Moore coast to victory over incumbent Senator Luther Strange in the race for the Senate seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions appears to give some hope to Moore’s Democratic challenger, but it’s far too early for Moore’s opponents to begin celebrating:

The Senate race in deep-red Alabama might be within reach for Democrats, after the Republican nomination of Roy Moore.

The poll, conducted by Opinion Savvy and commissioned by Decision Desk HQ, finds that Moore leads Democratic opponent Doug Jones 50.2% to 44.5%.

While still not a close-close race, that’s definitely closer than a normal Senate race in Alabama for an off year. The poll is of 590 likely voters in the state reached this week by landline and mobile, with a margin of error of 4 points. (Full methodology here.)

Though he is well-known and has a built-in set of supporters in the state, Moore has a long and complicated history in Alabama and nationally: He was twice removed from the state’s Supreme Court for refusing to follow federal rulings.

He’s suggested various national tragedies — including 9/11 — happened because of what he calls the United States turning away from Christianity. He’s written columns for World Net Daily, a fringe right-wing site known for pushing birther conspiracy theories about President Obama. And he has a long history of making anti-gay comments, as well as opposing Keith Ellison’s being in Congress because he is Muslim, and another man from serving in the George W. Bush administration because he was an “admitted homosexual.”

Jones, meanwhile, is a former US attorney backed in particular by former vice president Joe Biden. Winning in Alabama for a Democrat, though, even with an extreme candidate like Moore on the ticket, seems like a tall feat.

“Any time you get a result that seems to run totally contrary to the conventional wisdom of a state’s politics, it gives you pause,” said Brandon Finnigan, the executive director of Decision Desk. “However, Roy Moore barely won his election as chief justice to the state Supreme Court in 2012, underperforming presidential candidate Mitt Romney by 18 points. I still have difficulty seeing him lose in Alabama — even in the surprisingly close South Carolina 5th Congressional special, the Republican still won. But in a special held 13 days before Christmas? Who knows.”

Previous polling of a head-to-head match between Moore and Jones showed Moore winning handily. Much of that was offset, however, by a combination of both a high number of undecided voters and the fact that Jones had remained a relatively unknown while the news was focused largely on the Republican race and the runoff between Moore and Strange. With that race over and Jones now receiving more support from national Democrats, it’s not surprising to see his support rising. Additionally, the fact that Moore is such a controversial figure is likely to draw attention to the race as well as support from Democrats across the country as well, possibly, as some Republicans who are horrified at the idea of Moore actually getting elected to the Senate. It’s unlikely, though, that this increased attention, and the resources that will likely come with it, will ultimately be enough to overcome what seems like a natural advantage for Moore in the December 12th Special Election.

Writing in The Washington Post Alabama author Roy Hoffman, who opposes Moore, holds out hope that his state will stand up against the theocracy and bigotry that Moore represents:

[Alabama] now is a bellwether for the nation: coming together vs. staying apart. When O’Brien asked me what our state does well and what it doesn’t, I spoke of Alabama’s famous and often well-deserved reputation for hospitality. Newcomers such as the immigrants of my grandparents’ generation arriving at Mobile’s downtown blocks and speaking little English felt welcomed enough to stay and put down roots. “Come on in, y’all!” But running against that grain, I added, was the counter-impulse of a culture anxious about outsiders and fearful of those who look, act, pray or speak differently, even if they live on the other side of town. “Trespassers beware!”

This push-pull, this embracing change or bracing against it will still be with us whether our next senator, as predicted, is the far-right Moore, a longtime public figure who’s made no secret of his disdain for Muslims, gays and those whose sense of faith differs from his evangelical Christian fervor, or mainstream Democrat Doug Jones, in a possible upset. Either way, I feel strongly that an ever-increasing openness, a cultural diversity, is inching forward, if not evidenced by raw numbers, then in the kinds of people who increasingly call Alabama home.

Whether these changes that Hoffman speaks of would be enough to pull Jones over the top remains to be seen, but the truth is that things do not look all that optimistic. Alabama has not elected a Democrat to the Senate since the late and legendary Howell Heflin ran for re-election for the final time in 1990, and hasn’t had a Democratic Senator since 1994 when Richard Shelby, the state’s senior Senator, left the Democratic Party and ran for re-election as a Republican. Additionally, Republicans have largely dominated other statewide offices such as Governor, Lt. Governor, and Attorney General since the early 1990s and the state’s Congressional delegation is dominated by Republicans, with the sole Democrat representing the 7th Congressional District, which is dominated by African-Americans. Given that, the odds are that the Republican candidate will win the Special Election this year notwithstanding the fact that this candidate is both a radically far-right theocrat and a former Chief Justice who was twice removed from office for refusing to comply with the orders of a Federal Court. Nonetheless, one can hold out hope that Alabamans will see the light and that Jones will find a way to defeat Moore.

FILED UNDER: 2017 Election, Public Opinion Polls, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held 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 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Gustopher says:

    All of the things that normal people would find disqualifying for a public servant are considered pluses for a lot of Republicans.

    Moore is going to cruise to victory in the special election.

  2. JohnMcC says:

    It is difficult for a certain kind of person to refuse to live down to their stereotypes. I am afraid that the citizens (or perhaps more correctly: ‘the voters’) of my native state include a large percentage of such persons.

    My favorite appeal by a politician ever was (bless me) Jimmy Carter’s. “We are better than our governing class,” he seemed to say. We deserve a government as good as we are.

    In the 21st century it’s hard to remember what it was like to believe that.

  3. @Gustopher:

    Sadly, you’re probably right.

  4. Jeremy says:


    We deserve a government as good as we are.

    If that’s the case, maybe we do deserve an awful one.

  5. teve tory says:

    I love that one of moore’s law professors said he was aggressively unteachable. Just like many of his supporters.

  6. teve tory says:

    word is, trump’s base is super pissed at not repealing the Dread Obamacare and they’re going to primary Errbody in the GOP congress.

    I’m totally down with that.

  7. JKB says:

    Fairfax, VA has developed a solution for pesky voters. Who says government doesn’t have a sense of humor, dark humor, but humor none the less, we hope, it was humor.

  8. Mikey says:

    Credit where it’s due…that’s pretty funny, @JKB.

  9. Tyrell says:

    @JohnMcC: I happened to catch Judge Roy giving a speech the other day. I didn’t hear anything great or bad. But at one point he introduced a veteran who was a survivor of the Bataan death march and the Japanese pow camp over there. Now that was extraordinary.
    See – “Unbroken”

  10. Mikey says:

    @Tyrell: So that’s why Trump supported Moore’s opponent–Moore has a friend who was captured, and we all know Trump likes guys who weren’t captured.

    (Personally I think this is because guys who survived stuff like the Bataan Death March and the Hanoi Hilton make Trump realize, even if only a little, how utterly cowardly he was for dodging the draft. But that’s just my hypothesis.)

  11. Rick Zhang says:

    Perhaps one solution is to co-opt the traditional Republican position on states’ rights and endorse greater federalism in the US. That is, minimal federal taxes (maybe ~10% flat tax) going towards defense and foreign policy, with everything else (especially health care and education) devolved to the states. That way the wealthier states don’t have to subsidize decisions we don’t like.

    As I’ve always said, I feel more in common with a similarly educated professional from France or Japan than with a blue collar worker in West Virginia or Alabama. Is that a bug or a feature, or both? You decide.

  12. teve tory says:

    I don’t mind trump dodging the vietnam draft. It was an awful, shitty, often criminal war. I blame him for literally everything else he has ever done in his awful, shitty, often criminal life.