By TODD STACY, Alabama Daily News
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – New polling in Alabama’s U.S. Senate race shows former Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore’s image among Republican voters is suffering, and he’s trailing behind two other candidates in the GOP primary.
A recent survey conducted by Cygnal shows that 65 percent of likely Republican primary voters now have an unfavorable opinion of Moore, while just 28 percent have a favorable view. Those numbers were almost reverse in September of 2017 after Moore had captured the GOP nomination in the special election to fill the seat of Jeff Sessions, who left the Senate to become Attorney General. Then, Moore enjoyed 61 percent approval from Republican voters and just 34 percent disapproval, according to Cygnal’s survey research.
That was before decades-old allegations of sexual misconduct against Moore rocked the campaign and contributed to Moore’s loss to Democrat Doug Jones. Moore has denied the allegations.
Cygnal Founder and CEO Brent Buchanan said the numbers are troubling for the recently-launched Moore campaign.
“Entering the race with a -38 net favorability is going to be an enormous hurdle for Moore to get over – even if he does have a horse,” Buchanan said.
But Buchanan pointed to another factor: President Donald Trump’s recent tweets discouraging Moore’s candidacy saying the former judge “can’t win.”
...If Alabama does not elect a Republican to the Senate in 2020, many of the incredible gains that we have made during my Presidency may be lost, including our Pro-Life victories. Roy Moore cannot win, and the consequences will be devastating....Judges and Supreme Court Justices!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 29, 2019
“Last week I would have said – and did – that Roy Moore is in the ‘catbird seat’ to be in a runoff. That was based on his February 2019 image,” Buchanan said.
“President Trump recently turning on Roy Moore has caused significant damage to Moore’s standing with Republican voters to the point Moore is unelectable.”
Cygnal’s poll found Moore trailing behind former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville and 1st District Congressman Bradley Byrne in an early ballot test. When asked who they would vote for if the election were held today, 29.3 percent chose Tuberville, 21.4 percent chose Byrne, and 13 percent chose Moore.
Filling out the ballot, 11.8 percent of voters chose Secretary of State John Merrill and 2.2 percent chose State Rep. Arnold Mooney. 22.3 percent of Republican voters remain undecided, according to the poll.
Head-to-head ballot test question from Cygnal’s 2020 GOP Senate primary survey
While the “horse race” numbers are interesting, Chris Kratzer, Cygnal’s Vice President of Research and Analysis, said Moore’s “cratering” approval rating are the most significant data point.
“In the span of two years, Moore’s favorability with GOP primary voters has completely cratered – a swing of 64 points.” Kratzer said. “The cult of personality Moore once commanded has faded away and his once reliable voter base is only getting smaller.”
The survey also tested how many Republican voters cast ballots against Roy Moore in the 2017 special election and how many would do so again. A full 22 percent said they voted for Doug Jones, while 7.2 percent said they wrote in another candidate and 9.6 percent said they did not vote.
Should Moore be nominated again, 31.1 percent of Republican voters say they are likely to consider voting for Jones instead, according to the survey.
The poll is a probabilistic mixed-mode survey was conducted on June 22-23 with 612 likely Republican voters with a margin of error of ±3.96 percent. Interviews were conducted using an online sample acquired via email and SMS invitations sent to known registered voters and filled in with Interactive Voice Response (IVR) to landline phones. According to Cygnal, this methodology reflects the way voters now communicate with more people using online communication than answering phone calls.
Cygnal, an Alabama and Washington, D.C.-based polling and market research firm, is not working for any of the candidates, nor did an outside interest group fund the survey, they said. Buchanan and his firm most recently did polling for Gov. Kay Ivey’s reelection campaign and were named a top polling firm for the 2018 cycle by The New York Times.