Polling Shows Alabama Senate Race May Be Slipping Away From Roy Moore

Could the tide be turning in the Alabama Senate race against Roy Moore? At least some polling indicates the answer could be yes.

Roy Moore Gun

In an ordinary election, a statewide Senate race in Alabama would not be in doubt. The state has been reliably Republican in Presidential race for decades now, and has not seen a Democrat win election or re-election to the Senate since Howell Heflin won in his bid for his final term in office in 1990 and Richard Shelby won his last election bid running as a Democrat in 1992 before switching parties in 1994. Since then, Shelby has easily won re-election each time he’s put his name forward, and Heflin was replaced in 1996 by Jeff Sessions, who easily won his elections each time he ran, including at least one where Democrats didn’t even bother nominating a candidate to run against him. With controversial former State Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore running in the December 12th Special Election to replace Sessions, though, there are at least some signs that the trend could break this year. Moore, of course, was already a controversial figure thanks to the fact that he has been removed from the bench twice for refusing to comply with the orders of a Federal Court and the views he has expressed on social issues such as same-sex marriage. Those policy issues, though, have taken a back seat in the wake of reports that began last week with Moore being accused of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl, assaulting another woman in his car when she was 16, and of varying degrees of inappropriate conduct toward girls in their teens when he was a single man in his 30s. With a total of nine women now accusing him of such conduct, there are signs that the race could be turning against him.

Most prominent among these signs is a Fox News poll showing Democratic nominee Doug Jones leading Moore by eight points:

Alabama voters want a candidate who will represent their state with honor — and they think Doug Jones has strong moral character and Roy Moore doesn’t.  That gives the Democrat the lead in the U.S. Senate race.

Jones is up by eight points over Moore among Alabama likely voters, 50 percent vs. 42 percent, in a Fox News Poll conducted Monday through Wednesday evenings.  His lead is outside the poll’s margin of sampling error (±3.5 percentage points).  Nine percent are undecided or plan to vote for someone else.

Alabama voters decide who will fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions in a December 12 special election.  Allegations of sexual misconduct against Moore broke November 9.  He denies the accusations.

Support from women is the key to the Democrat’s advantage in this red state, as Jones is their choice by 26 points (58-32 percent).  The gap grows to 49 points among women under age 45 (69-20 percent), and he’s up by 11 among women ages 45 and over (51-40 percent).  Jones even receives 19 percent support from Republican women (to Moore’s 68 percent).

Moore is preferred among white evangelical Christians by 53 points (73-20 percent), whites by 19 points (56-37 percent), and men by 12 (53-41 percent).

There’s more party loyalty among Democrats, as 91 percent back Jones compared to Moore’s 78 percent among Republicans.

Some 30 percent of Moore’s backers say they have some reservations about their candidate, while 19 percent of Jones’s supporters say the same.

The poll, released Thursday, finds a 15-point gap between the number of Alabama voters who think Jones has strong moral character (56 percent) and those who feel that way about Moore (41 percent).  Plus, 85 percent among Democrats think Jones has strong moral character, while just 65 percent of Republicans say the same of Moore.

When asked which candidate qualities are important to their vote decision, 33 percent say they want someone who will represent Alabama with honor, 26 percent are looking for someone who shares their values, 26 percent want a candidate who will bring needed change, and 8 percent prioritize their party’s candidate.

“Alabama voters want a senator who represents them with honor — and many, especially women, have decided Moore is not that person,” says Democratic pollster Chris Anderson, who conducts the Fox News Poll with Republican Daron Shaw.

Jones is preferred among those who want a candidate who will represent the state with honor by 22 points and by 35 points among voters focused on change.  Moore is the choice, by 22 points, among those prioritizing someone who shares their values.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Monday he believes the women who have accused Moore of misconduct are telling the truth.

But do Alabama voters believe the allegations?  Thirty-eight percent think they are true, while 37 percent don’t.  One in four is unsure (25 percent).

Most of those saying the allegations are true back Jones (85 percent).

Roughly the same number of men (36 percent) and women (39 percent) believe them, and parents (38 percent) and non-parents (38 percent) are equally likely to believe the accusations, which allege Moore engaged in sexual contact with teenage girls while in his thirties.

Overall, by a 54-38 percent margin, voters think Moore should stay in the race.

Looking further into this poll, 52% say they approve of the President’s job performance while 47% say that this disapprove. While this is better than the President’s national average, it is interesting given the fact that Trump won the state last year by 28 points over Hillary Clinton. It’s also worth noting that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell fares far worse than Trump in surveys, with just 27% approving of his job performance and 57% approving. By way of comparison, 91% of Alabama Republicans approve of Trump job performance while just 29% approve of McConnell’s. While it’s true that the opinion that Alabamans have of Mitch McConnell doesn’t really matter to his political future, this disparity is significant in the Senate race since Moore is framing a good part of his race as a race against Mitch McConnell and the so-called Republican “establishment.” These numbers show that to be a smart political strategy on Moore’s part. The poll also finds that current Alabama Senator Luther Strange, who lost the runoff for the Republican nomination to Moore back in September, would lose a hypothetical matchup against Jones by ten points, although it’s not clear why this is the case.

This poll comes a few days after an internal poll released by the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which withdrew its support for Moore earlier this week, showed Jones beating Moore by eleven points:

Republican Roy Moore is trailing Democrat Doug Jones by 12 points in the Alabama special Senate election, according to a poll conducted by the National Republican Senatorial Committee after five women accused Moore of pursuing them as teenagers.

Jones led Moore 51 to 39 percent, according to the survey taken Sunday and Monday. The NRSC withdrew its support for Moore after the Washington Post published the first allegations against Moore on Thursday, and the group’s chairman, Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) said Moore should be expelled from the Senate if he wins on Dec. 12.

The poll shows a dramatic turn against Moore in Alabama: In early October, a committee poll had him leading by 16 points, and a survey early this month had him up by 9 points. Moore’s favorability numbers also tanked, from 49 percent in early October to 35 percent in the NRSC’s latest poll.

The poll shows a dramatic turn against Moore in Alabama: In early October, a committee poll had him leading by 16 points, and a survey early this month had him up by 9 points. Moore’s favorability numbers also tanked, from 49 percent in early October to 35 percent in the NRSC’s latest poll.

These two polls came out in the wake of other polling that showed the race tightening after the first reports of accusations against Moore were made public last week. Those polls suggested early evidence that the accusations were hurting Moore. For example, a JMC Analytics poll, showed Jones leading Moore 48% to 44% with 8% either undecided or favoring another candidate. This was a big change from a previous poll from this company that showed Moore with an eight-point lead. Another poll conducted by a company called Change Research showed Moore at 44% and Jones at 40% with 16% undecided. A third poll from Gravis Marketing, conducted last Friday, showed Moore with a two-point lead over Jones 48%-46% with 6% undecided. Finally, a poll from a company called Opinion Savvy found the two candidates tied at 46%. It’s worth noting that all four of these polls were conducted before the two polls noted above and that two of them, Gravis and Opinion Savvy, were conducted in just one night which could make them less reliable. Nonetheless, they would seem to be consistent with later polling that showed what appears to be a sea change in the race in the wake of the accusations against Moore.

With all of this new polling, the RealClearPolitics average shows a much tighter race than we saw prior to the allegations against Moore, with Moore (47.2%) leading Jones (46.4%) by just eight-tenths of a percentage point. As the chart shows this is quite a change from where the race just a few short weeks ago:

2017 Alabama Senate Chart 111717

As Josh Marshall notes, it’s worthwhile to be skeptical about some of this polling of this race, especially the recent polling showing Jones with a substantial lead over Moore. As I noted at the top of this post, Alabama has a long history of being very friendly territory for Republicans in general and conservatives in particular. Additionally, the Alabama Republican Party is saying that it still stands behind Moore and Moore himself seems to be digging in for a bitter political fight over the next twenty-five days that will be as much a battle against the national Republicans who have turned against him as it will be about his Democratic opponent. Indeed, given the fact that Jones seems to be a fairly moderate Democrat who earned his reputation as a United States Attorney who prosecuted the men responsible for the 1963 Birmingham church bombing that killed four young African-American girls, it is likely that it may be more to Moore’s advantage to make Mitch McConnell the “enemy” in this race rather than Doug Jones. An additional caveat to keep in mind here is that the polls could be exaggerating the extent of how far Moore has fallen due to the fact that some respondents may be reluctant to admit to a pollster that they are continuing to support a man such as Moore who has been accused of committing some horrible offenses against children.

Given the nature of the charges against Moore, though, it’s certainly possible that Jones could win this race, but as Nate Cohn notes in The New York Times, it’s not going to be easy, and Democrats ought to be cautious about getting too optimistic too soon. If polling continues to show Moore losing ground as we get closer to December 12th, though, then it could be Republicans who will have something to worry about, because they stand to lose regardless of the result. A Moore win would put a man accused of child molestation in the Senate GOP Caucus and force their hand at trying to expel him from his seat, something that could hurt them with the party base. A Jones win, on the other hand, means that the GOP majority in the Senate would slip to 51-49, which could have a significant impact on how the Senate operates.

Stay tuned.

 

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2017, Public Opinion Polls, 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

Comments

  1. charon says:

    This race is unusual enough that turnout will probably differ greatly from historical patterns, and differ greatly among various segments of the electorate.

    This will be difficult for pollsters to assess accurately, so I expect polling of this election to be unusually unreliable. I expect wide variation among various pollsters because of this.

  2. charon says:

    I will make one other point here: really hard-core Evangelical Right people vote every election out of dedication to their cause, they think of that as a duty. If this turns out to be a higher than usual turnout election, simple math says their relative influence would be lower than usual.

  3. Stormy Dragon says:

    Please free my comment from modertaion. Thanks.

  4. Kylopod says:

    @charon:

    This will be difficult for pollsters to assess accurately, so I expect polling of this election to be unusually unreliable. I expect wide variation among various pollsters because of this.

    What you’re describing is not actually unusual in off-year races, particularly special elections, which are notoriously difficult to poll. In the Virginia race, polling was all over the map during the final week, ranging from a substantial Northam lead to a substantial Gillespie lead and everything in between. The difference with Alabama is that this race was not supposed to be competitive.

  5. Gromitt Gunn says:

    At the absolute minimum, this is a textbook example of why political parties should run candidates for every office possible and not cede races simply because they seem unwinnable. i believe that the only reason Doug Jones even has a shot here is because his name is going to be on the ballot next to Moore’s. If the Democrats had ceded the race to Moore, I really do not think that a Doug Jones write-in campaign would be getting much traction.

  6. Tyrell says:

    Perhaps the best strategy now for anyone announcing their candidacy for any elective office from assistant dog catcher to president is to just announce their past sins – put it right out front and center.
    “I confess here and now that in the past I have smoked stogies behind the gym, double parked, ignored jury duty summons, got tickets for loud mufflers and squalling tires, flirted with the principals daughter, did the the drive in movie back seat thing,went to bars instead of Wednesday night Bible study, stole candy and drinks, whistled at girls at the mall, laughed at racial jokes, skipped church to attend races, and used binoculars at the beach.
    To many these may seem trivial, but they break most of the Ten Commandments. To some that may mean nothing, but to me it is a big deal.. I am indeed sorry for my offenses and beg anyone’s and everyone’s forgiveness”. .
    Now let’s talk about the issues.

  7. de stijl says:

    @Tyrell:

    Molesting a 14 yo when you are in your 30s is not the same thing as sneaking someone into a drive-in hiding them the backseat under a blanket.

    Not all unethical and immoral act carry the same weight. Some acts are more consequential.

    Morality isn’t just binary. Littering and murder are both immoral. Which is worse?

  8. de stijl says:

    @charon, et al.

    Yeah, polling will be difficult because turn-out will be crazy high and charged for this type of an election.

    The models really cannot account for this election.

  9. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @Tyrell:

    flirted with the principals daughter

    So, I take it that you’re leaving out the part where she was 14 and you were 29? How does that help make the system more transparent? It sounds to me like you’re mocking that sort of honesty. Does it make you embarrassed that you are mocking common decency or are you used to mocking it?

  10. Tyrell says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’nint cracker: No, my intention was that it would be better if a person put all this sort of thing out front to begin with. I remember the Gary Hart campaign. That may be hard for a candidate to do, any candidate. Too me some of the judge’s legal maneuverings and decisions should have been enough to disqualify him.

  11. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Tyrell:

    I generally agree with you. It is always better to get out in front of something so you can control the narrative, but I’m pretty sure there isn’t an electorate anywhere willing to overlook “I like to molest 14 year old girls” just because the candidate self-revealed.

  12. An Interested Party says:

    Moore is preferred among white evangelical Christians by 53 points (73-20 percent)…

    That’s a perfect example of how these people are among the biggest hypocrites on this planet…if Jesus was alive now he’s be throwing them out of today’s temples…