The First Run-off Poll

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 23, 2017 — JMC Analytics and Polling, one of the pollsters for the special Alabama Senate Republican primary, is first to release run-off numbers. In their post-primary survey (Aug. 17-19; 515 completed interviews of Republican likely run-off voters), JMC finds appointed Sen. Luther Strange to be in deep political trouble, but some of the numbers may be slightly exaggerated.

According to the results, former State Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore leads Sen. Strange by a substantial 51-32 percent count, remembering that the primary results four days before were 39-33 percent in the challenger’s favor. This clearly suggests that supporters of the third-place finisher, Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville), are flocking to Judge Moore in droves.

Geographically, the respondent sample is divided into five segments, with the Huntsville sector coming very close to the confines of Rep. Brooks’ northern Alabama 5th Congressional District. According to this grouping, Judge Moore receives a commanding 52-29 percent support factor in this region thus explaining the large statewide polling swing to Moore when compared to the primary results.

Judge Moore also does well in the Birmingham (49-36 percent), Montgomery (58-22 percent), and Dothan (69-19 percent) sectors. He carries Mobile by just a two-point spread, however, 42-40 percent.

Though the regional dispersion from the JMC study does not quite match how the primary results were reported – Sen. Strange carried Birmingham, for example – the five polling geographic segments are much larger than the cities for which they are named. This is particularly true in the case of Birmingham, which covers counties stretching all the way from Georgia to Mississippi and therefore explains the discrepancy.

According to the segmentation, Moore leads Strange in all geographic areas but does so through dominating the rural regions. Combining the rural counties with their closest metropolitan area overshadows Strange’s standing in the cities and suburbs, but the Moore overall margin is too large for this to even be a factor.

One area that might be an exaggeration source, however, is the evangelical vote. While the poll depicts evangelicals as supporting Moore by a 58-28 percent clip, which is believable, the polling universe appears to contain an over-sampling of the group. JMC depicts 68 percent of the full sample self-identifying as evangelical. The Census Bureau casts the state population at 49 percent evangelical, and where there is likely to be a greater number of this group voting in a Republican primary or run-off, it is a probable stretch to see that number soar as high as 68 percent.

The one clear area of dominance that Sen. Strange has over Judge Moore is in financial resources, both internally and externally, but even this is not all positive.

While Strange can count on strong media advertising support and assets coming from the Senate Republican leadership PAC community, such may not bode well with most participating run-off voters. Because so much money will come from Washington, and through a PAC strongly associated with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), the preponderance of Alabama Republican run-off voters, at least as depicted in this poll, are turning away from the nominal incumbent.

According to the JMC survey results, 45 percent, respondents would be less likely to vote for Sen. Strange because they see “McConnell spending millions to help elect him” versus only 10 percent who would be more inclined.

In conclusion, Sen. Strange may not be as badly damaged as this poll indicates, but he is clearly significantly behind. With not much time remaining to close a major gap before the Sept. 26 run-off vote comes to pass, the appointed senator may have a difficult time in reversing the Moore trend to the degree necessary in order to achieve victory.

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