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

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

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.

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.

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Comments (15)

  1. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 12/18/2017 - 10:11 am.

    I apologize, too

    Alabama males of voting age should be ashamed. Equally worrisome to me, however, beyond Moore’s mall-cruising tendencies, were his theocratic “ignore the law” tendencies, which are especially troublesome when it’s a judge who’s practicing those tendencies. If “the rule of law” means anything at all to people who like to call themselves “conservative,” and it should if you really believe yourself to be conservative (or liberal, for that matter, but that’s for another time), it ought to mean that you don’t get to ignore the laws you don’t like, and only pay attention to or enforce the laws you favor. Given his documented history of racism, misogyny, and flouting the law, Moore should never have been a nominee for a public office at all (more apologies for Alabama males, though I don’t know any personally), much less a candidate for the U.S. Senate.

  2. Submitted by joe smith on 12/18/2017 - 11:45 am.

    One thing learned by all,

    don’t run terrible candidates who can’t win. Moore was a terrible candidate that deserved to lose, end of story.

    • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 12/18/2017 - 12:51 pm.

      Broaden Your Gaze (Or Don’t)

      How either party fares in any particular special election is a small data point, but one that does not exist in a vacuum. Over the dozens of special electrons since November 2016, the Democratic candidates have over performed relative to normal expectations. Same deal for the regularly scheduled elections last month. Go ahead and tell yourself this was only about a single bad candidate. GOP candidates for office in 2018 are not. Roy Moore was not the reason Virginia Dems nearly took over their lower house and their guv candidate won handily. Or were all of those losing incumbent Virginia Assembly GOP incumbents bad candidates?

    • Submitted by Pat Terry on 12/18/2017 - 01:47 pm.

      Yes and no

      The other party is going to get an election bounce with an unpopular president, so that it is some of it. But yes, don’t nominate a man who preys on teenage girls is a pretty good rule of thumb in politics.

  3. Submitted by Leon Webster on 12/18/2017 - 12:33 pm.

    Moore (and Republicans) may have won voters 65 and older, but this 67 year old thinks that might change in the future as more and more baby boomers age into retirement. Even though I am retired, I still care about public schools, infrastructure (including regulating the internet like a public utility), remediating the gross disparities in income & wealth in the country, and being able to be proud of my country when traveling abroad. The last state wide Republican office holders that I respected were Arnie Carlson and Dave Durenberger.

  4. Submitted by John Webster on 12/18/2017 - 12:52 pm.

    Don’t Overthink

    Most political analysts are way overthinking the Alabama results, attributing the Democratic win to this or that demographic group turning out disproportionately or voting a different way than usual. There is only one statistic that reveals why Roy Moore lost in that heavily Red state: Trump received over 600,000 more Republican votes in 2016 in Alabama than Roy Moore did last week. Even accounting for the lower turnout in a special election, Moore’s loss resulted from a massive rejection of him by Republicans, not from huge turnout of Democratic constituencies. Had Moore received even 5% of those 600,000+ additional Trump voters, he would have won.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 12/18/2017 - 02:04 pm.

      The question is

      would TRUMP have received those 600,000 ‘Trump votes’ in an election today?
      And it is significant that the Democrats turned out black voters (despite voter suppression and gerrymandering) in an election in the deep South without a black candidate.

  5. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 12/18/2017 - 02:05 pm.

    One thing that disturbs me

    is the fact that Moore seems to have been hurt more by his sexual peccadilloes than by his disregard of the Constitution, which by itself should have disqualified him from public office.

  6. Submitted by Jeff Michaels on 12/18/2017 - 03:44 pm.

    Voting Preference by Age

    When I was young ad foolish I always voted for liberals and Democrats. Aging cured that habit. As happens to most people after accumulating a wide variety life experiences, I now vote for conservatives and Republicans. I am sure many Alabama young people will follow the same pattern.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 12/18/2017 - 05:33 pm.

      That’s one data point

      My father, on the other hand, started out as an Eisenhower Republican (remember them?), then as he aged drifted leftward. He ended up thinking that socialism might have some valid points after all.
      And BTW, he was a classic New York City businessman who actually built his own business.

    • Submitted by Cynthia Ahlgren on 12/18/2017 - 10:24 pm.


      As a general rule, women become more liberal as they age, while men become more conservative. As a former Republican and now a happy liberal in my 60’s, I can attest to the truth of that axiom. It is also true that women live longer than men (on average) resulting in a higher proportion of women among the elderly. One might extrapolate that the future is liberal.

    • Submitted by Nick Foreman on 12/19/2017 - 04:28 pm.

      Just more greedy

      And want the poor and middle class less wealthy. LOL

  7. Submitted by Cameron Parkhurst on 12/18/2017 - 05:10 pm.

    Don’t disregard

    that this was one the only election happening. All of the resources of the Democrats, financial and organizational were able to be focused on Alabama. And Roy Moore was an appalling candidate who deserved to lose and did. Even with a mid-term bump, the Democrats will need to do much more to win back or hold on to seats in places like Alabama, particularly when the Republicans nominate a potted plant, not a pedophile. I suspect Jones will be done in two years.

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