The news media have been obsessed over the last several days with the allegations that Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore regularly sought out the romantic attention of teenagers when he was in his 30s, and that on at least two occasions, he committed sexual misconduct with them.
Republicans on Capitol Hill have been quick to distance themselves from Moore, as prominent members of leadership have stated openly that they believe Moore’s accusers and have called for him to step aside. Even some non-establishment conservatives like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) have taken steps to distance themselves from Moore.
But how are voters in Alabama reacting? While numerous news organizations have conducted non-scientific “man on the street” interviews with Alabama voters, only two polls have been taken since the allegations first broke, and they show conflicting results.
What do the polls say?
The first poll taken after the revelations broke was conducted by Emerson College, and showed Moore maintaining a 10-point lead (55 percent to 45 percent), which is much smaller than the 22-point lead Moore enjoyed in the September Emerson Poll. Twenty-eight percent of the poll’s respondents stated that The Washington Post report influenced their response, compared to 59 percent who said that the allegations made no difference.
The second poll, conducted by JMC Analytics, shows Democratic candidate Doug Jones holding a narrow 4-point lead (46 percent to 42 percent) over Moore. In that poll, 38 percent of respondents indicated that the allegations against Moore made them less likely to support Moore, compared to 29 percent of respondents who indicated that the allegations made them more likely to support Moore, and 33 percent of respondents who indicated that the allegations made no difference in their vote.
A third poll, conducted by Opinion Savvy, showed Jones and Moore locked in a tie. A vast majority (82 percent) of respondents indicated that they had heard of the allegations against Moore. The poll did not ask respondents to indicate whether the allegations had affected their preference in any way.
All three polls were conducted based on samples taken from Nov. 9-11. The Washington Post’s report was released last Thursday, which means that all of the responses were collected after the initial allegations, but before Beverly Young Nelson’s news conference Monday, in which she alleged that Moore had attempted to force her to perform oral sex, and produced a yearbook that was purportedly signed by Moore in 1977.
What does it all mean?
Taken altogether, the polling would suggest that the allegations have hurt Moore to some degree and have turned a special election in one of the country’s most Republican states into an extremely competitive race. It is too early to tell, however, what the final outcome of the race or the allegations will be.
The special election for the Alabama Senate seat to replace Attorney General Jeff Sessions is scheduled for Dec. 12.