With the special election for Alabama’s Senate seat less than two weeks away, the candidates appear headed for a photo finish, with Democrat Doug Jones gaining a slight edge over his Republican competitor Roy Moore, according to a new poll out Saturday.
Jones is up 3% among likely voters, with 50% to Moore’s 47%, according to a Washington Post-Schar School Poll.
The survey found that allegations of improper sexual behavior made against Moore in recent weeks factored heavily in the candidate’s drooping numbers.
On the topic of moral conduct, 53% of voters said Jones had higher standards. Only about a third of those polled said Moore, a former district attorney, former Alabama state Supreme Court justice, and strong proponent of Christianity, has higher moral standards. Moore is perhaps best known for his strident opposition to LGBT rights and Islam and embrace of Christian theocratic principles.
Of the one in four likely voters who listed morality as their top factor in voting, Jones also leads 67% to 30%.
However, the poll also highlights a continued division among Alabama voters on the validity of the sexual allegations against Moore. Just 35 percent of likely voters believe Moore pursued relationships with teenage girls when he was in his 30s, while 37 percent say they are either unsure or do not have an opinion. Comparably, 28 percent of likely voters say they do not believe the allegations, the poll found.
Moore has vehemently denied the allegations.
When it comes to voting across the aisle, considering Alabama is a deep-red state and Jones’ success relies on winning over Republican voters, the poll found Jones has the backing of one in six GOP-leaning voters. In comparison, Moore has the backing of one in 14 Democratic-leaning voters.
Polls taken before the allegations against Moore surfaced showed the Republican with a lead, but that fell quickly afterward. According to a Fox News poll from the middle of November, Moore trailed Jones by eight points.
The special election will be held December 12.
A spokesman for Moore’s campaign responded to the polling results, insinuating that the Post had influence over the findings because they were the first news organization to report the sexual misconduct allegations against Moore.
“This week, Roy Moore has led in more than 5 public polls. So it’s no surprise we would be down in the Washington Post poll given their commitment to the systematic destruction of Roy Moore,” the spokesman said. “The Post hates Moore and anyone who stands for God and the values that have made this nation great.”
However, the pollsters did not disclose that The Washington Post was a sponsor of the poll until the end of the interview to avoid influencing the answers of respondents with opinions about the news organization’s coverage of the allegations against Moore.
The Washington Post-Schar School poll was conducted Monday to Thursday among a sample of 749 likely voters and has a 4.5-point margin of error.