By Jim Ellis
Aug. 29, 2017 — Racked by two recent polls that gave former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore leads of 18 points or better over appointed Sen. Luther Strange in the Sept. 26 special Republican run-off election, the Senate Leadership Fund, strong supporters of the interim incumbent and closely associated with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), just released their own competing data.
The Voter Surveys & Consulting polling firm (for the Senate Leadership Fund; Aug. 21-23; 601 likely Alabama Republican run-off voters selected randomly from a list of previous GOP primary voters) finds a much closer contest. According to this new data, Judge Moore’s lead is a much tighter 45-41 percent, very different from the 51-32 and 50-32 percent margins that JMC Analytics & Polling and Opinion Savvy, respectively, published during the previous seven days.
Voter Surveys’ conclusion is a net 15 percentage points different than the other post-primary pollsters while surveying virtually the same universe. Dr. Jan Van Lohuizen, a 40-year polling and research industry veteran, conducted the Voter Surveys poll. Despite its wide variance from the previous pair, this latest study may have the most credibility.
Though Voter Surveys did not release their crosstabs, thus making direct comparisons difficult, it is apparent that a potential flaw exists in both the JMC and Opinion Savvy studies. It appears they may have a significant skew with regard to evangelical voters.
The JMC and OS sampling groups were comprised of individuals who describe themselves as evangelicals in a much greater ratio than the state as a whole. This is not particularly surprising since a greater number of evangelicals will vote in the Republican primary than Democratic, but sampling universes that include 68 and 71 percent respective segments appear too high when contrasting with the US Census’ Bureau’s estimate of 49 percent evangelical for the Alabama population as a whole.
Considering that Judge Moore is performing much better among evangelicals than Sen. Strange, it is logical that two potentially over-sampled evangelical polling universes would favor the former in much greater numbers. It is doubtful that the evangelical cell is the only difference element among the three polls, but dissimilar sample selections could account for much of the discrepancy.
Another variance between the Voter Surveys data and the Opinion Savvy results lies in the area of favorability index (JMC did not test for personal or job approval), particularly relating to Sen. Strange. While the OS survey finds Judge Moore recording a 54:33 percent personal approval rating, the appointed Senator is upside down at 40:46 percent positive to negative.
The Voter Surveys results widely differ from Opinion Savvy in this testing sphere. Though they too find Judge Moore with a stronger comparative index, 59:31 percent to Sen. Strange’s 52:37 percent, the latter man’s standing is greatly improved.
Though the Voter Surveys & Consulting results are much better for Sen. Strange, it is never a good sign when allies release a poll showing their favored candidate trailing. Therefore, little doubt exists that Judge Moore leads the race at this time, and reasonably beyond the margin of polling error.
We can count on a very active last month of this special run-off campaign, with many more polls soon to follow.