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What does Alabama exit polling tell us about Dems’ chances in 2018?

A surge in black turnout, comparable to what just happened in Alabama, would help Democrats in a great many states. But some other factors present in Alabama might not apply.

Roy Moore won (I apologize for my gender) among men. Doug Jones made up for that by winning solidly among women.
REUTERS/Marvin Gentry

Every election has its unique aspects, which is one reason that it’s difficult to announce the arrival of a trend that cuts across time and space. I mentioned last week that it was difficult to take November’s good Democratic showing in New Jersey and Virginia as a reliable sign that the current Republican domination of all branches of the federal government was wobbling.

Then came the special Senate election in Alabama, which saw the election of a Democrat in what is the (or one of the the) reddest states in the union. If all you knew was that a Democrat had won a Senate seat in Alabama, you would say that Democratic happy days are here again.

So I had to laugh when I read the take of Nathan Gonzales of “Inside Elections,” especially this passage:

“Doug Jones’s historic victory in Alabama gives Democrats an important seat in the fight for the Senate, but most Democratic candidates next year will have to take a different path in order to help the party secure a majority.  The most obvious difference is that other Democratic candidates don’t get the luxury of running against Roy Moore, his dating practices, and allegations of sexual assault.

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A surge in black turnout, comparable to what just happened in Alabama, would help Democrats in a great many states. The dismal approval ratings for the current incumbent in the White House will hurt Republicans in all but the most solid red states. And yes, if the Democratic nominees could all arrange to run against someone who is credibly accused of cruising malls and courting teen-aged girls when he was in his mid-30s, that would help quite a bit. But that last factor, as Gonzales noted, is unlikely to be available in most places.

Here’s the link to the Gonzales piece, but I think you might have to be a subscriber to read it yourself.

One more data-bit from the exit polls interested me. Roy Moore won (I apologize for my gender) among men. Doug Jones made up for that by winning solidly among women. That by itself might be taken as a hint that Moore’s interest in teen-aged girls was a factor. But it’s more than a hint when you note that, while Jones carried women overall, he did so by a much bigger margin (66-32 percent) among mothers, compared to 55-44 percent among women without children.

That last data bit I lifted from this Chris Cillizza/CNN analysis piece headlined “8 numbers out of Alabama that should terrify Republicans.”

Of course, if we assume Moore’s weak showing among mothers had something to do with his unsavory interest in teen-aged girls, we can’t be sure it should terrify Republicans in states where their nominee lacks Moore’s (ahem) colorful courtship history.

Some of Cillizza’s other data points might have a more general application. For example,  Moore won big (a 19-point margin) among Alabama voters aged 65 and older. Older Americans tend to be steady voters, but that group of 65 years and up voters cannot be a strategy for the long-term future.

Among the entire 18-64-year-old demographic (obviously most the electorate), Jones won by eight points, and the younger the age groups the bigger Jones’ margin.

Voters aged 18-44, preferred Jones by a 23-point margin. Of course there’s no guarantee that as those Alabamans age, they might not change their voting tendencies. But, on balance, you’d rather be the party that gets them when they’re young.