An Emerson College Poll released on Monday shows conservative Republican Roy Moore leading liberal Democrat Doug Jones by three points, 49 percent to 46 percent among “very likely voters.”
Write-in candidate Lee Busby is at five percent in the December 12 special election for the U.S. Senate in Alabama, but the poll director tells Breitbart News the results overstate support for Busby.
“We discussed what to do with Busby and decided for this poll to include his name on the ballot test to better understand his presence in the race- what we learned was he would be taking more votes away from Moore than from Jones,” Emerson College professor and poll director Spencer Kimball tells Breitbart News.
“In my experience we have found a natural melt with third party candidates as elections approach and think that will happen here, especially in light of Trump’s recent endorsement (done after this poll),” Kimball says.
“An interesting finding was with the undecided voters, Moore had been winning this vote in our last two polls but in this survey Busby is getting a larger percent of undecided voters than Moore,” Kimball adds.
In a podcast on Monday, Kimball said that Busby was polling with “Republicans at six percent, Independents at eleven percent,” but noted “he’s only getting one percent of Democrat voters.”
“That means he’s pulling [votes] away from Moore supporters,” Kimball added.
These results include “leaners” who have not decided who they will vote for, but are not categorized in the “undecided” category, which is why there are no reported undecideds.
“Without the leaners in the race, Moore holds a 48 to 44 to three lead, with five percent undecided,” Kimball said.
But even those results overstate Busby’s support.
Kimball acknowledged to Breitbart News that a ballot test in a poll in which respondents can choose Busby as easily as they can choose Moore or Jones overstates support for Busby, because in the voting booth on election day, casting a write-in ballot for Busby requires more from the voter than simply pulling a lever or pushing a button, which is all they have to do to vote for Moore or Jones, because they are on the ballot, while Busby is not.
In fact, the process of casting a write-in ballot is a bit involved, so much so that Alabama Secretary of State had to issue a special set of instructions on how to do it to voters.
“In our final poll we will ask the ballot test questions with and without a third party option to see those results,” Kimball tells Breitbart News.
Kimball sees regional differences within the state of Alabama when it comes to support for Moore and Jones.
“Jones has been closing over the last three weeks, it looks like he might be ready for that upset, particularly up in the 5th District. That’s Mo Brooks’ district. We’re seeing in the last 3 polls Jones able to hold that area of Huntsville,” Kimball said in Monday’s podcast.
“If he’s able to pull of an upset up in the northern part, what we’re also seeing in the 7th District, the Birmingham area, he is extending his lead from in our previous polls to where he was up by eight points, now he’s up by over 30,” Kimball said of Jones.
If that trend continues, Kimball said, “He [Jones] might be able to pull off that upset here in Alabama.”
On the flip side, Kimball says of Roy Moore, “What he’s got going for him is obviously, the southern part of the state, the eastern part.”
Kimball notes that Busby, as a third party write-in candidate, “might be seeing a little bit of flash in the pan effect”
“We typically see a melt away from the third party, that melt would go back to Roy Moore, that would be the saving grace,” he added.
But Kimball resisted making any final predictions on the outcome of the race.
“I think it would be probably be better to wait until next week and then we can play the role of soothsayer,” he concluded.
The poll of 500 “very likely registered voters” was conducted between November 30 and December 2, and has a 4.3 percent margin of error.
“The Alabama data was weighted by gender, region, 2016 vote, and mode of collection … Data was collected using both an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system of landlines only and on online panel provided by Survey Sampling International (SSI),” the Emerson College Polling Society said of the methodology.
The final sample of 500 “very likely registered voters” included 250 from IVR and 250 from the SSI online panel.
Polling director Kimball tells Breitbart News:
We use the Mitofsky rule and publish results without undecided voters included in order to make it easier for public consumption of our data. We use Crespi’s method of asking undecided voters a forced choice question and then we combine to calculate the ballot test results. Of course in our topline results you can find the undecided voters without the follow up question for undecided voters (48% for Moore, 44% for Jones, 3% for Busby and 5% for undecided).
“We only use full completes and likely voters in our final sample. If you eliminate those folks, we have 283 in our IVR sample. Our method is to weight our IVR and Online samples at 50/50,” Kimball notes.
“We don’t use all 389 IVR respondents; we also weight the results by region, party and 2016 election results in the state based on our methodology – our party breakdown with 52 to 32 Republican to Democratic. Both our online and IVR samples in the subsets are about 20 points differences with Republicans [greater than] and Democrats,”Kimball adds.
That party affiliation breakdown is comparable to a recent CBS Poll (Republican +14) which shows Roy Moore with a six point lead.
A Washington Post poll that oversampled Democrats (Republican +7) showed the race was tied.