Of the three polls released on the Alabama U.S. Senate special election on Monday, the day before voters cast their ballots, only the Monmouth Poll, which said the race was tied, 46 percent for Republican Roy Moore and 46 percent for Democrat Doug Jones, with a 4.2 percent margin of error, got it right.
With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Jones won by a margin of 1.5 points, receiving 49.9 percent of the vote, while Moore received 48.4 percent of the vote, with write-in candidate Lee Busby receiving 1.7 percent.
The Fox News Poll released on Monday, which showed Jones up by ten points, 50 percent to 40 percent, with a three percent margin of error, missed the final election results by 8.5 points, though it did get the winner correct. The final 1.5 percent margin of victory of Jones was less than the lowest margin of victory the Fox News Poll projected for Jones.
The Emerson Poll released on Monday, which showed Moore up by nine points, 53 percent to 44 percent, with a 3.9 percent margin of error, missed the final election results by 10.5 points, and it got the winner wrong.
The Monmouth Poll was particularly prescient in its analysis on the eve of the election:
Slight differences in turnout could change the outcome of tomorrow’s special U.S. Senate election in Alabama. According to the Monmouth University Poll , a standard midterm turnout model gives Republican Roy Moore a slight advantage. A higher, although less likely, near-presidential election turnout would give Democrat Doug Jones a slim lead. An adjusted midterm estimate based on patterns seen in last month’s Virginia gubernatorial race – i.e. relatively higher turnout in Democratic strongholds – puts Tuesday’s election up for grabs.
“In a typical year, we would probably default to the historical model, which shows Moore ahead. It could still end up that way, but both 2016 and 2017 suggest that typical models may not apply. If we see a surge in Democratic turnout, especially in the Birmingham region, Jones has a chance. On the other hand, if turnout is significantly lower than a standard midterm election, Moore’s prospects increase,” Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute, said on Monday in a press release accompanying the poll.
Though the final election results were outside the Fox News Poll margin of error, Anderson Robbins Research (D) and Shaw & Company Research (R), who conducted the Poll for Fox News, can point to this: It was the only one of the seven major polls released in the week before the election included in the Real Clear Politics Average of Polls that had Jones in the lead.
While, as Breitbart News reported, the Fox News Poll oversampled Democrats (Republicans +2 vs. Democrats +15) its methodology captured the higher enthusiasm among Democrats that made the final difference in Jones’ narrow victory over Moore.
As Fox News reported when the poll was released on Monday:
Greater party loyalty plus higher interest in the election among Democrats combined with more enthusiasm among Jones supporters gives him the advantage in the race to fill the U.S. Senate seat previously held by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
In the end, although the Fox News Poll was off the mark in terms of the margin of victory, it got the winner right. The Monmouth Poll was more prescient in both its election results prediction and its analysis, and the Emerson Poll missed both the winner and the final electoral results.