Confirming Data in Alabama

Left: Former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore. Right: Ex-US Attorney Doug Jones

Left: Former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore. Right: Ex-US Attorney Doug Jones.

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 30, 2017 — As we reported last week, two polls, one from WT&S Consulting (Nov. 18-20; 11,641 registered Alabama voters; Moore, 46-40 percent advantage) and one from Strategy Research for the Raycom News Network (Nov. 20; 3,000 likely Alabama special election voters; Moore, 47-45 percent advantage) first detected a swing back toward embattled Republican US Senate nominee Roy Moore in his special election contest with former US Attorney Doug Jones (D). Now another new survey, and one that is perhaps more significant, confirms the Moore advantage.

The Change Research firm, a San Francisco company that claims it brings a “Silicon Valley approach to polling,” has just reported new survey numbers, and for the third time in the Moore-Jones race. In mid-November (Nov. 9-11), CR found Judge Moore holding a 44-40 percent advantage just as the sexual impropriety scandal was beginning to become public knowledge. Later, from their November 15-16 poll, they saw the electorate sway to a 46-43 percent edge for Democrat Jones.

Yesterday, the firm released its Nov. 26-27 polling result (1,868 self-identified Alabama registered voters) and, confirming what WT&S and Strategy Research found, sees Judge Moore rebounding into the lead, 49-44 percent.

The swing to Moore is significant for several reasons. First, as the Politico publication reported, Jones and the Democrats are outspending Moore by a 7:1 margin in advertising, already running or reserving $5.6 million in media and digital advertising time versus only $800,000 for the Republican. But, assuming the consistent results from the three recent aforementioned polls are accurate, it appears either the Jones ad barrage is having no effect at best for the Democratic campaign, or worst, the piling on Moore is backfiring and leading to the opposite result.

Jones and his outside supporters have run a two-pronged media approach: direct attack ads on Moore and his current sexual impropriety scandal, while contrasting that message with a second theme that tries to distance Jones from the national Democrats, who are unpopular in Alabama, and cast him in a more bipartisan light. If the Jones internal data, which has not been released but undoubtedly exists, shows a similar pattern to these latest three polls, then we can expect a rapid strategy change because the current approach is obviously not expanding their candidate’s base of support.

The Change Research series is likely most significant because a constant pollster using a consistent sample selection methodology is generally believed to be a good tracking barometer. Their first data, showing Moore’s previous double-digit lead shrinking to small single-digits just as the scandal was breaking, is in line with other available data during the equivalent time period. Change also found Jones moving into the lead as the Moore scandal began to develop legs, as did other pollsters, and now they see voters beginning to “come home” as the campaign progresses and the scandal becomes less sensationalized.

The biggest reason for the return to more normal Alabama voting patterns centers around whether or not people believe the allegations; and here we see definitive partisan divisions. In what are good news findings for Moore, his margin among previous Moore voters has returned to a 93-5 percent split; appointed Sen. Luther Strange primary voters now back the GOP nominee in a 53-30 percent clip; and “other” Republican primary voters favor him 53-29 percent. Democrats are virtually unanimous in their support of Jones, but they are badly outnumbered in the electorate as a whole. For example, in the Senate Republican run-off more than 493,000 people voted versus just 165,006 individuals who chose to cast a Democratic primary ballot.

Additionally, the major publicity about other sexual assault scandals from people in Democratic politics, e.g., Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) and Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), the media, and Hollywood have likely desensitized the electorate even further, thus lessening the impact of the accusations against Moore.

But perhaps the most significant piece of information contained in the latest Change Research survey comes from them detecting a six percentage point increase among those who self-identify as Trump voters “definitely planning to vote.” Now, 88 percent of Trump voters say they are definitely planning to cast a ballot in the special Senate election, up from 82 percent found in the previous CR surveys.

Despite Jones’ huge resource advantage that has financed barraging the airwaves with ads, the electorate appears to be turning back toward Moore. It will be interesting to see what moves the Democrats make in the closing days as they attempt to retrieve Jones’ earlier momentum, understanding that any chance at wresting the Senate majority away from Republicans begins with a mandatory victory in this Alabama special election.

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