All eyes will be on Alabama on December 12, as Roy Moore and Doug Jones face off for the U.S. Senate seat once held by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Roy Moore has broken into a lead in the recent polls in the race, with the exception of one, which you can see in detail later in this article.
(Note: Alabamans headed to the polls on December 12. You can read live election results and updates here.
Although a series of recent polls showed Moore with a lead, a Fox News poll on December 11 showed Jones with a 10-point lead. Although most recent polls showed Moore ahead, experts have said the race is tough to predict, in part because of the low number of polls, unknowns such as turnout, and the oddness of the race itself. SurveyMonkey released a poll “without a prediction.”
The election is noteworthy in many ways. Republicans had not expected Alabama, a red state, to be competitive (the last Democrat to represent Alabama in the U.S. Senate was Howard Heflin, who served from 1979 until 1997.) That was before Moore, the controversial former state Supreme Court justice, was accused by a series of women of sexual contact/overtures. Some of the women claim they were in their teens when the incidents occurred.
One of the most disturbing allegations involved a woman who claims Moore had sexual contact with her when she was just 14, and he was a local prosecutor in his 30s. Moore has fought back hard against the accusations, which he denies. Moore has highlighted the belated admission by one accuser that she wrote part of a passage in a yearbook under a signature she says is Moore’s. How will voters respond to these accusations? We will know on December 12.
There’s also the involvement of President Donald Trump in the race. Trump, who was also accused of sexual misconduct, which he also denies, has endorsed Moore. Trump, who had initially supported Moore’s primary opponent, Senator Luther Strange, recorded a robocall supporting Moore. Trump wrote on Twitter, “Democrats refusal to give even one vote for massive Tax Cuts is why we need Republican Roy Moore to win in Alabama. We need his vote on stopping crime, illegal immigration, Border Wall, Military, Pro Life, V.A., Judges 2nd Amendment and more. No to Jones, a Pelosi/Schumer Puppet!”
Moore is no stranger to controversy. Bombastic and defiant, underfunded, prone to controversial statements (including about Vladimir Putin), and railing against Washington elites, Moore, ironically, may have captured some of the narrative that propelled Trump into the White House. He’s also a Vietnam veteran and former prosecutor. Moore previously received national attention for his defiance over the Ten Commandments and same-sex marriage. Jones is a former U.S. Attorney.
What do the polls predict? On December 11, the RealClearPolitics polling average for the race showed Moore ahead by an average of 2.5 percentage points. They cover the time span of November 27 through December 10. In late November, Moore and Jones were basically tied, but in December Moore broke sharply into a lead in the polls.
FiveThirtyEight, a site that conducts political statistical analysis, wrote on December 7, “Moore, who has been accused of sexual contact with women when they were underaged, has led by an average of 3 percentage points in polls taken within 21 days of the December 12 special Senate election in Alabama. The betting markets give Moore about an 80 percent chance of victory — roughly the same chance they gave Hillary Clinton just before the 2016 presidential election.”
However, the site noted that Alabama polling has been volatile, the average polling error is higher in Senate races than in presidential contests, and “even though Moore is a favorite, Democrat Doug Jones is just a normal polling error away from winning.” The site concluded that Moore “seems to have the edge” but “he’s far from a sure thing.”
Here’s a round up of the latest polls in the Moore/Jones Senate race:
Fox News (12/7-12/10)
Trafalgar Group (12/6-12/7)
WBRC-TV/Strategy Research (12/4)
CBS News/YouGov (11/28-12/1)
Washington Post (11/27-11/30)
JMC Analysis (11/27-11/28)
See a chart tracking polling in the race historically here.