— Voters are closely split on the allegations against Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, per preliminary exit poll results — but 55 percent say they’re a minor factor or not a factor at all in their decision.
— Trump manages only 48-48 percent approval-disapproval among voters in deep-red Alabama. And those who “strongly” disapprove of the president’s work in office outnumber strong approvers by 9 points, 41 percent to 32 percent.
— Reflecting the party’s built-in advantage in Alabama, more voters in the state want the Republican Party to be in control of the Senate than the Democratic Party, by 51-43 percent.
Read the full story below:
In what would otherwise be a cakewalk for the Republican candidate, preliminary exit poll results in Alabama’s special election for the Senate seat once held by current Attorney General Jeff Sessions show how allegations of sexual misconduct against Republican Roy Moore have complicated his contest against Democrat Doug Jones.
On the overwhelming issue of the election, voters are closely split on the allegations against Moore. Forty-nine percent think they are definitely or probably true, vs. 45 percent who think they are definitely or probably false. That said, 40 percent say these allegations are at least one of several important factors in their vote; a majority, 55 percent, says they’re a minor factor, or not a factor at all.
More say the allegations against Moore are “definitely true” than “definitely false,” 26 vs. 16 percent.
Jones is seen favorably by slightly more voters than Moore — 49 vs. 42 percent — and they’re about even on shared values — 49 percent say Jones shares their values, 46 percent say the same for Moore. Notably, the GOP and the Democratic Party run evenly in favorability in this typically deep red state, 43 vs. 44 percent.
Independents are another key group to watch. Accounting for 20 percent of voters, they see Moore unfavorably by a vast 39-point margin, 30-69 percent, favorable-unfavorable. Independents see Jones favorably, by contrast, by 11 points, 54-43 percent.
Jones voters are substantially more enthusiastic than Moore voters in these preliminary results. Nearly eight in 10 Jones voters say they strongly favor their candidate, compared with just slightly more than half of Moore voters. Only 2 percent of Jones voters see him unfavorably, while 13 percent of Moore voters don’t like him, but voted for him anyway.
Alabama is about as solidly Republican as states come. Now-President Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton by 28 points here last year, the largest margin of victory in a presidential contest in the state since 1972 and Trump’s fifth biggest win (after Wyoming, West Virginia, Oklahoma and North Dakota). Republican Sen. Richard Shelby won re-election also by 28 points last year, and when Sessions last had a race, in 2008, he beat the Democrat by 27 points. Sessions ran unopposed in 2014.
Reflecting the party’s built-in advantage in Alabama, more voters in the state want the Republican Party to be in control of the Senate than the Democratic Party, by 51-43 percent.
Further, 10 percent of voters say they decided on their choice in the last few days, 9 percent earlier in December and 20 percent in November. That means that most, 60 percent, say they made their choice before November, which is before the allegations against Moore surfaced.
Trump, who endorsed the controversial Moore, looms large. He held only 36 and 40 percent job approval ratings among voters in New Jersey and Virginia’s gubernatorial elections in November, both won by Democrats, and he’s at about 37 percent nationally in recent polls, a historic low. Among Alabama voters today, by contrast, his approval stands at 48 percent in preliminary exit poll results. Further, 29 percent say one reason for their vote today was to show support for Trump, vs. 20 percent who say it was to express opposition to him. A plurality, 48 percent, say Trump didn’t factor into their vote.
Twenty-nine percent of Alabama voters say one reason for their vote was to show support for Trump, per preliminary exit poll results, while 20 percent wanted to express opposition.
These are preliminary exit poll results. Results may change as more data become available and as results are adjusted to reflect the actual vote as it becomes available. Vote preference results among groups will be reported after the polls close at 8 p.m. ET.
Turnout among evangelical white Christians is critically important for Moore. They account for 43 percent of voters in tonight’s preliminary exit poll results, compared with 47 percent in the 2012 presidential and 2008 Senate elections (2010, 2014 and 2016 data aren’t available.)
Fifty-four percent in the state say abortion should be illegal in all or most cases. Moore is strongly anti-abortion, while Jones generally supports legal abortion.
Responses to the controversy over Moore’s alleged sexual misconduct have shifted over time. As the allegations emerged in early November and continued through the month, leading Republicans –– notably Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. — called for his withdrawal. Moore denies all allegations.
Early this month, however, Trump endorsed Moore, McConnell gave his tacit approval and the Republican National Committee resumed its support for Moore’s campaign. Moore’s campaign attacked McConnell as a Washington insider, potentially an effective riposte, since McConnell has only a 14 percent approval rating among today’s voters.
Republicans outnumbered Democrats by 9 points in the 2012 presidential and 2008 Senate elections alike. In preliminary results from this December off-year contest, Democrats comprise 37 percent of voters, vs. 43 percent Republicans — a 6-point gap.
The state also is broadly conservative. In the last Senate election in 2008, just 12 percent of voters were liberal, vs. nearly half who described themselves as conservative. In preliminary results tonight, the share of conservatives is essentially the same, but liberal turnout has doubled, a record in available Senate and presidential exit poll data in Alabama if it holds.
Race is another important factor. About two-thirds of voters were white while nearly three in 10 were black in 2012 and 2008. This year, preliminary results are similar, despite Alabama’s new, more-restrictive voter ID law.
Women — also a key group, given the allegations against Moore — have outnumbered men by 6 to 12 points in previous Senate and presidential exit polls in Alabama. In this contest’s preliminary data, by contrast, it’s a 50-50 split between the sexes.