By Jim EllisOct. 16, 2017 — The Cygnal polling firm just released the latest survey for the special Alabama Senate race (Oct. 2-5; 497 likely Alabama special election voters), and it yields a spread between the two major political party nominees that is beyond the margin of polling error. But, these results come with a qualification: the last Cygnal poll for this race, before the Aug. 15 primary election and prior to the September run-off, badly missed the final outcome.
According to this small sample poll, former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore (R) leads ex-US Attorney Doug Jones (D), 49-41 percent. Some of the more interesting segmentation includes a significant gender gap. Men prefer Moore 53-38 percent, while women give Jones a one-point edge, 46-45 percent. Jones also leads with voters 49 years of age and younger (a five percentage point advantage), but Judge Moore has a 12-point margin among those 50 and older. This latter spread is a more important advantage for Moore because the oldest age group has the highest propensity to vote in low participation elections.
This latest Cygnal poll is the first the organization has conducted in Alabama since before the special primary. They did not go into the field during the Sept. 26 run-off cycle.
In late July (20-21st), just under four weeks from the Aug. 15 primary, the firm released data that appears to badly miss the mark, but a closer analysis shows they correctly projected the strength of two of the top three candidates.
The Cygnal ballot test put appointed Sen. Luther Strange in the lead with 33 percent, followed by Moore at 26 percent, and Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) attracting 16 percent support. Comparing these to the actual results, Strange actually did end the primary cycle with 33 percent, but he finished second. Rep. Brooks polled 20 percent in the election, which is in range of Cygnal’s pre-election projection. But, the firm badly underestimated Moore, who placed first with 39 percent. Therefore, if the Cygnal prediction model is again understating Moore’s support, the former state Supreme Court Chief Justice could actually be sitting in much stronger position.
Geographically, the same patterns appear to be present among the general electorate as occurred in the primary and run-off. According to the Cygnal poll, Moore leads 52-29 percent in the Huntsville region, which the pollsters estimate comprises 20 percent of the statewide Alabama vote, 50-39 percent in the Montgomery sector (25 percent of the statewide total), and 57-36 percent in Mobile, which represents 14 percent of the total special election vote. In the Birmingham area, which has the largest vote share at 41 percent, Jones actually pulls ahead by a single point, 46-45 percent.
These results are highly consistent with how Moore performed against Strange particularly in the run-off election. For Moore to win, he will need to ensure a strong turnout in the areas outside of the Birmingham metropolitan area. Conversely, for Jones to pull the upset he will need an exceedingly strong participation rate from Birmingham, his home, and the area he once represented as US Attorney.
Currently, Jones is trying to move to the center of the political spectrum while his Democratic allies are attacking Moore about inordinate compensation they allege he received (he denies) from a religious non-profit organization with which he was associated. For his part, Judge Moore needs to refrain from making major mistakes, emphasize his support for President Trump within the GOP base, and maximize turnout in his strongest areas.
The special general election is Dec. 12, so time remains for this race to veer in different directions.