Fox News put its credibility on the line when it released a new poll on Monday that shows liberal Democrat Doug Jones leads conservative Republican Roy Moore by 10 points, 50 percent to 40 percent, in tomorrow’s special election for the U.S. Senate in Alabama.
The contrast between the results reported by Fox News and every other recent major poll could not be sharper.
Earlier on Monday, an Emerson Poll was released that shows Moore up by nine points, 53 percent to 44 percent.
The five other most recent polls featured in the Real Clear Politics Average of Polls all show Moore in the lead.
The Fox News Poll released on Monday “was under the joint direction of Anderson Robbins Research (D) and Shaw & Company Research (R),” and included a respondent sample of likely voters that included 44 percent Republicans, 42 percent Democrats, and 14 percent independents (Republican +2) (see political identification after question 7 here), which significantly oversamples Democrats.
One way to understand the actual voting behavior of Alabamians is to look at the results of the 2016 election in the state. President Trump defeated Hillary Clinton by a margin of 28 points, 63 percent to 35 percent.
That breaks down to a party affiliation of Republican +15, with Independents voting for President Trump by about a two to one margin. This is similar to the party affiliation breakdown seen in the samples of respondents in the five recent polls that show Moore in the lead.
Here’s how Fox News describes the methodology of its poll released on Monday:
The Fox News Poll is conducted under the joint direction of Anderson Robbins Research (D) and Shaw & Company Research (R). The poll was conducted by telephone with live interviewers December 7-10, 2017 among a random sample of 1,408 Alabama registered voters (RV).
Results based on the full sample have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage
A subsample of 1,127 has been defined as likely voters (LV), with a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
Landline (864) and cellphone (544) telephone numbers were randomly selected from a statewide voter file of registered Alabama voters using a probability proportionate to size method.
This simply means phone numbers are proportionally representative to the number of voters in all regions across the state of Alabama. Fieldwork by Braun Research, Inc. of Princeton, NJ.
In the article published about the poll on Monday, Fox News said it was “conducted Thursday through Sunday using traditional polling techniques, including a list-based probability sample with both landlines and cellphones,” adding:
A subtle but potentially noteworthy finding is Alabama voters who were interviewed on cellphones are +30 for Jones, while the race is roughly even among all others. The fact that traditional, high-quality probability samples, like the Fox News Poll, include both landline and cellphone numbers may be why these polls show Jones doing relatively well compared to automated or blended polls.
“It’s clear Jones is positioned to pull off the upset because his supporters are unified and energized, and Moore’s are conflicted and diffident,” says [Fox News pollster Daron] Shaw.
“But Jones is depending on many voters who show up only occasionally to cast their ballots. If their rate of follow-through drops from what we expect, the race could turn. The other factor is the race seems volatile, with a new twist or story every day, and because of this it is difficult to know what Republicans will ultimately do.”
The Fox News Poll sample of 649 likely voters included 48 percent Republicans, 42 percent Democrats, and ten percent independents, which appears to be an unusual oversampling of Democrats and undersampling of Republicans. [Note: See political identification after question 24 on page 8 of the poll]
Party affiliation of the Fox10/Strategy Research Poll was not included in the story announcing its results, but another poll included in the current Real Clear Politics Average of Polls conducted by Opinion Savvy on November 9, which showed the race to be a tie, has a very different weighting by party affiliation than the Fox News Poll.
The Opinion Savvy Poll conducted on November 9 of 515 likely Alabama voters included 58 percent Republicans, 29 percent Democrats, and 13 percent independents.
Another unusual aspect of the Fox News Poll released on Thursday that shows Democrat Jones with an eight-point lead over Moore is that it appears to contain a sample of Alabama likely voters in which 51 percent voted for Donald Trump and 48 percent voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.
This calculation is arrived at by examining the results of question number eight in the Fox News Poll, which shows that 49 percent of likely voters in Alabama have a favorable view of President Trump, while 48 percent have an unfavorable view.
Responses to Question 9 of that November 16 Fox News Poll showed Barack Obama has a 52 percent favorable, 45 percent unfavorable rating among likely Alabama votes, a finding that is dramatically different from almost all other polls.
The Fox News Poll released on November 16 was from a sample of respondents that was Republican +6, also significantly oversampling Democrats.
One good thing about the divergent Fox News Poll results: When the outcome of the Alabama special election is known late Tuesday night, the public will have a much better idea in the future about which polls to rely upon, and which polls to disregard.