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20 November 2017

Alabama Special Election - Poll Predictions

In my previous post, I laid out a defense of Judge Roy Moore, Republican candidate for US Senate in Alabama's special election.  Prior to a series of lurid sexual allegations, Moore was hugely favored to win the deep-red State's senate seat.

In light of these allegations--and amid cowardly calls from the Republican Establishment to withdraw from the race--Moore's poll numbers have wavered.

That's not surprising.  What is more interesting, however, is that Moore's numbers have not changed substantially; rather, his opponent, Democrat Doug Jones, has enjoyed a bump.

At the time of writing (Thursday, 16 November 2017), the RealClearPolitics average of polls (link) has Moore ahead by a meager 0.8%, with 47.2% of likely voters.  Jones has the support of 46.4% of likely voters (in one Fox News poll, Jones enjoys a six-point lead!).

Just a week prior (Thursday, 9 November 2017)--before the bulk of the accusations against Moore materialized--Moore sat at 48%, with Jones at 42%.

Note that Moore's average poll numbers have only fallen by 0.8%--hardly a catastrophic slide.  Jones's numbers, on the other hand, have seen a 4.4% boost.

Even on 9 November, 10% of likely Alabama voters were undecided.  Now, that number has fallen to 6.4%.  In other words, in one week, 3.6% of undecided voters have "decided" for Jones, while only 0.8% of Moore voters have flipped.

That infamous Fox News poll?  It had a sample size of about 500 voters, and polls tend to skew toward Democratic voters (presumably, they have the free time from guzzling sweet, sweet government bennies to answer phone polls).

Meanwhile, a local Fox affiliate in Alabama, Fox10, commissioned its own poll with Strategy Research (link).  That poll has a healthier sample size of 3000, and puts Moore up over Jones by a respectable six points, 49% to 43%, respectively, with 8% of voters undecided.

Of those polled, 35% said the allegations made them more likely to vote for Moore.  Among undecided voters, 6% said the allegations made them more likely to vote for Moore, 44% less likely to vote for Moore, and a whopping 51% were either undecided or said that "the allegations make no difference in their vote."

Doug Jones, Democratic Candidate (top) and Judge Roy Moore, Republican Candidate for Senate (bottom; Source:

What does this all mean?

For one, the election will come down to undecided voters.  If any of the truly wicked allegations against Moore are proven (it's unorthodox, to be sure, but I don't consider respectful courting of legal-aged women--with their mothers' permission!--in the late 1970s as particularly wicked), that 51% of the 6-8% of undecided will likely push Jones over the top.  However, if no plausible evidence emerges to indict Moore decisively in the public mind, then he should win over enough of those undecided voters to get the Senate seat, although I predict he'll take a hit among women either way.

Support from his existing supporters remains solid.  Take a look at that 35% who are more likely to vote for Moore after the allegations.  Surely a solid third of Alabama Republicans aren't supporting Moore because he's said to have dated teenagers (and to have inappropriately groped a half-naked fourteen-year old).  Why would they stick with him?

The answer:  they smell a rat.  Media bias reeked throughout the 2016 election, when Donald Trump--whom Alabamans supported in droves--fought off sexual harassment allegations of his own.  Those allegations looked like they would swamp Trump's candidacy when they aired in October 2016--a month before the election.  He batted them away by turning the tables on Secretary Hillary Clinton's lothario husband, former President Bill Clinton.

Moore is in a nearly-identical situation:  he's a lovable culture warrior who has put his career on the line for his principles.  He's bucked the Establishment of his own party, and his allure goes beyond policy specifics.  He's a Jacksonian hero who, while he may be rough around the edges, appeals to everyday folks with his common sense and tenacity.  While Trump was a household name throughout the country, Moore is a household name in Alabama.

So when these allegations emerged almost exactly a month before the 12 December election day, Moore supporters naturally had to be skeptical, especially coming from the Washington Post, an outlet that endorsed Doug Jones.

When Senate Majority Mitch McConnell, "Republican" Senator John McCain, and other Establishment heavies began calling for Moore to withdraw from the race, more than a few Moore voters had to suspect that the machinery of the Trump-skeptical GOP congressional leadership was either involved, or gleefully hoping to oust a damaged candidate.

When faced with the prospect of voting for a partial-birth abortion-supporting Jones or a potentially flawed conservative Christian culture warrior with a penchant for younger women, many Moore voters must have drawn the conclusion--as they did with then-candidate Trump--that a flawed conservative is better than a pure, progressive Democratic.

"[Moore is] a Jacksonian hero who, while he may be rough around the edges, appeals to everyday folks with his common sense and tenacity."

I have another--controversial--theory that, if correct, could wreck any poll numbers that put Jones up by less than 3-5%:  just as Trump enjoyed more support than the polls--even exit polls--suggested, I believe Moore will experience a similar phenomenon.  Right now, few people want to tell a phone pollster (even a computerized voice) that they support a man accused of, at best, dating teenagers.

This reluctance will be most prevalent among men (again, I suspect that Moore will take more damage from women, regardless of what revelations the future holds).  There are probably thousands of men in Alabama tonight who are thinking, "Well, I wouldn't want a 32-year old dating my daughter, but I can see why he would have dated younger women."  They can never utter this aloud, but they're thinking it.

Finally, just look at any comment thread on any story about Moore, especially one a local website.  The pro-Jones folks are invariably insufferable Lefties from out-of-state lecturing to the good folks of Alabama to "not be stupid" and the like.  The Moore supporters are grassroots and ready to back their candidate to the hilt.

While anything could happen, I think the trends on the ground will favor Moore.  If he can fight back the accusations, he can turn the election into a fight against Democratic outsiders attempting to influence the election, AND the Republican Establishment trying to keep him down.

We're in the age of the outsider, and Roy Moore is the ultimate outsider.  Let's see if he can pull a Trump and do some good in the Senate.

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