If you are wondering how Alabama voters are reacting to the explosive allegations of sexual misconduct involving minors against Republican Senate nominee Roy Moore, we have the first empirical evidence via a one-day poll conducted yesterday by Opinion Savvy for Decision Desk HQ.
Eighty-two percent of the 515 likely voters responding to the poll said they had “read, seen, or heard … news stories in the past 24 hours regarding Senate candidate Roy Moore, which allege that Moore engaged in a sexual encounter with a 14-year-old girl in 1979, when he was 32 years old.” We should note that’s a way of raising the issue that might have affected voter preferences even among the small number who had not heard the news.
Still, Moore held onto a tiny lead of 46.4 percent to 46.0 percent. A previous Opinion Savvy survey back at the end of September gave Moore a five-point lead, so the shift isn’t particularly large. A one-vote Jones margin, of course, gives him a Senate seat, so one way of looking at this is that an already-vulnerable GOP candidate may have been dealt a deadly blow even if a big majority of Republican voters don’t believe the Washington Post allegations or don’t care if they are true.
Opinion Savvy also tested Jones versus Moore with Luther Strange as a write-in candidate. In this scenario Jones holds a 43.6–41.3 lead over Moore with Big Luther weighing in at 12.3 percent. The numbers suggest Strange wouldn’t split the GOP vote as much as you might expect; some Strange voters appear to be taken away from Jones. Keep in mind that 58 percent of the respondents are self-identified Republicans, exactly double the percentage that are Democrats.
The poll does show Moore losing support disproportionately among self-identified Evangelicals (a majority of Alabama voters), leading Jones in that demographic 58–37; he led by 68–28 in September. That could be just noise in a poll with a small sample size, but if it indicates Evangelicals (Moore’s base) are reacting more strongly to the Post allegations than others, Moore is in bigger trouble than the overall numbers indicate.
The question this poll cannot really answer is the level of detail about the allegations against Moore that voters absorbed the day they were released — presumably not a lot of Alabamians read the Washington Post — and whether the sheer creepiness of Moore’s reported conduct came through. It’s possible the story will marinate for a while before having its full impact, particularly if nothing happens to undermine the credibility of the accusers. And it’s also possible that after some initial discomfort, an awful lot of Alabama Republicans will find their way clear to voting for Moore anyway, particularly if he and his defenders continue to hang tough.