Editor’s Note: New American Journal editor and publisher Glynn Wilson is an expert at analyzing public opinion data having studied survey research at the University of Alabama as an undergrad in the early 1980s and a grad student in the mid-1990s. He has covered public opinion and politics as a specialty for newspapers, wire services and web news sites for the past 35 years. –
By Glynn Wilson —
MOBILE, Ala. — With 10 days to go in the critical U.S. Senate race in Alabama that has captured the attention of the nation, a new poll that has more credibility than any survey conducted to date shows that Birmingham attorney Doug Jones is pulling ahead of embattled former judge Roy Moore.
The new Washington Post-Schar School poll shows Jones, the Democrat, now leading among likely voters by a margin of 50 to 47 percent.
According to the Washington Post analysis of the numbers, voters are now paying close attention to the campaign, especially allegations of improper sexual conduct against Moore, which now “hang heavily over a race that would favor a Republican under ordinary circumstances in this deeply conservative state.”
“On the allegations, they have made an impact. There is no doubt,” said Mark J. Rozell, the dean of the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University. “Anybody with an R next to their name should be comfortably ahead in this state.”
While the race is still close and within the 4.5 percent margin of error, it is significant that Jones has hit the 50 percent mark, a number that neither Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton ever reached in any poll in the presidential election of 2016.
The Senate seat is a critical one formerly held by a great judge himself, Howell Heflin, who Jones worked with early in his political career. To Democrats in Alabama, Jeff Sessions stole that seat in 1996, since it was Heflin who cast the deciding vote against Sessions on the Senate Judiciary Committee when President Ronald appointed him in 1986 to federal district court judgeship in Mobile.
Sessions held the seat until last year, when Trump appointed him attorney general. Now disgraced former Governor Robert Bentley, who was removed from office last year in another sex scandal in the state, appointed Luther Strange to replace Sessions. But Strange lost to Moore in the Republican primary and runoff in August and September, setting up the battle with Jones, who won the Democratic primary with 65 percent of the vote.
The campaign in the special election has taken on national importance with implications for the Republican majority in the Senate, and has captured the attention of the nation of late making all the national news shows and the late night talk shows, including the Jimmy Kimmel Show on ABC when he and Moore got into a Twitter war and the Hollywood Catholic took down the judge and shut him up.
If Jones could pull out a victory, it would whittle the Republican majority down to a slim 51-49, putting in jeopardy any program put forward by Trump or Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Significantly, a majority of 53 percent of voters say Jones, a former federal prosecutor who won a conviction against a member of the Ku Klux Klan for his role in the Birmingham church bombing case, has higher standards of personal moral conduct than Moore. Only a third of likely voters say Moore has higher moral standards, even though he has mostly limited his campaign events to rural churches, which have the feel of a moral crusade more than a political campaign in an open, Democratic society.
In fact many followers on Facebook and Twitter have charged that Moore’s entire campaign is a violation of the Johnson Amendment, a law that prohibits non-profits and churches from endorsing politcal candidates, and the long-held American principle of the separation of church and state. (See more details about this in this recent story: Southern Baptists Embrace the Senate Candidacy of Disgraced Former Judge Roy Moore).
The survey found that 1 in 4 voters say “moral conduct” will be the most important factor in their vote. Jones leads with those voters by a wide margin of 67 to 30 percent.
In addition to dominating among women who are horrified at the allegations about Moore groping and fondling teen age girls while he was an assistant district attorney, Jones leads among African Americans by a margin of 93 percent to 6 percent. They make up one-quarter of likely voters. Jones is also peeling away Republican support from Moore. Jones now has the backing of 1 in 6 Republican-leaning voters.
The Post says Moore had led Jones in most public polls before the sex scandal story became public in November, but show support for Moore falling sharply after that. One mid-November Fox News poll showed Moore falling behind Jones by eight points. More recent automated surveys have found Moore regaining a slight edge.
The new poll shows a divided Alabama electorate on the validity of the allegations against Moore. While 35 percent of likely voters think Moore did make unwanted advances toward teenage girls, 37 percent say they are unsure or have no opinion. Only 28 percent say Moore did not make the alleged advances, a number that is a good benchmark to show the actual size of Moore’s base. It is likely that these voters also voted for Donald Trump for president, despite similar sexual misconduct allegations against him.
Women are more likely to find the allegations against Moore credible, and they tend to support Jones by a margin of 41 percent compared to 28 percent of men. Jones leads by 18 points among likely female voters. Moore leads by 15 points among men. White women support Jones by a margin of 57-38 percent.
Hard core Republican voters express more skepticism of the charges, while Democrats are mostly on board.
Less than 1 in 6 Republican-leaning voters say they believe Moore made unwanted advances toward female teenagers, a view shared by white evangelical Protestants and those who say they approve of President Trump, who in recent days has questioned the allegations and urged Alabamians to prevent Jones from winning the seat as “too liberal.”
Jones is picking up 33 percent of white voters in the state, compared to Barack Obama, who only won 15 percent in 2012.
The Alabama electorate is nearly unanimous in its view that men in their 30s should not date 16-year-old girls. Among likely voters, 91 percent say such relationships are never appropriate. Fifty-six percent say older men dating teenagers was not more acceptable back in the 1970s.
The Post-Schar School poll was conducted Monday to Thursday by the research firm Abt Associates among a sample of 749 likely voters and carries a 4.5-point margin of sampling error. To avoid influencing the answers of respondents with opinions about The Post’s coverage of allegations against Moore, interviewers disclosed The Post’s sponsorship of the survey only at the end of the interviews.
© 2017, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.