There is another new wrinkle in the topsy-turvy Alabama Senate race. A new poll released over the weekend showed Democrat Doug Jones with a three-point lead over embattled Republican Roy Moore.
The Washington Post – Schar School poll found Jones with 50 percent support of 739 likely voters to Moore’s 47 percent. The poll has a margin of error of 4.5 points making the poll a statistical tie.
The only recent poll that shows either candidate with a lead outside the margin of error is the CBS poll, which found Moore with a 49-43 advantage over Jones. That poll sampled 766 likely voters and had a margin of error of 4.8 percent.
The polling showed that voters are divided over the allegations against Moore. The Post poll showed that 35 percent believe that Moore harassed teenage girls while 37 percent are unsure or have no opinion. Only 28 percent doubt the accusations. CBS reported that 92 percent of Republicans don’t believe the accusations against Moore.
Only one poll, Emerson, asked voters about independent candidate Lee Busby. Busby entered the race in mid-November as a conservative alternative to Moore. The retired Marine polled at five percent compared to 49 and 46 percent for Moore and Jones respectively.
Emerson is also the only poll of the three that has regularly sampled the race. The record of polls on Real Clear Politics shows that previous Emerson polls gave Moore 55 percent in early November and 53 percent just after Thanksgiving. This shows a slight downward trend for Moore and more women came forward and Jones built an advantage in fundraising and advertising. Moore’s lead in the Emerson polling has declined from 10 points in early November to his current three-point advantage.
The small number of undecided voters may eventually break for Doug Jones since Moore is much more well known in the state. An axiom of polling developed by analyst Dick Morris is that undecided voters favor the insurgent candidate. If the incumbent or better-known candidate has not sealed the deal and is polling below 50 percent as the election approaches, it often means that he will lose the election.
Polling is difficult in state and local races and the different results almost certainly reflect different assumptions about what the electorate will look like as well as the changing nature of the race. The bottom line for the current crop of polls is that the race is too close to call. Moore seems to hold a slight lead despite Jones’ advantage in the Washington Post poll, but, with donations pouring in from around the country, Jones is within striking distance.
With the race inside the margin of error in most polls, the election could go either way. The final result will depend on which candidate can best urge their voters to turn out and get to the polls.