Wednesday, October 18, 2017

About that Alabama Poll

A new poll on the Alabama U.S. Senate race has it a tie between Roy Moore the Republican and Doug Jones the Democratic, both at 42 percent.

Don't believe it.

I'm not raising doubt because it's a Fox News poll. Their shop does good work. It's just that previous polls had Moore with a steady lead. Now maybe that lead has faded. Maybe news about some questionable charity monies or a bejillion Russian bots following him on Twitter have eroded Moore's lead, or maybe it dissipated because some folks realize he's kinda nuts.

Or maybe this poll is an outlier. These happen. Statistically speaking every poll has a 5 percent (1-in-20) chance of just being wrong. That doesn't mean it takes 20 polls for one to be wrong. The first could be outlier. I think it may be an outlier because all the other polls show Moore with a lead. For example, one earlier this month had Moore with a solid 8 percentage point lead.  Every public poll previous to this latest one had Moore ahead by 6 to 8 percentage points.

Unless another poll validates the latest result by showing it a lead or within the margin of error, I wouldn't make much of it. I get why Alabama Dems like this poll result and how they'll probably use it to raise money and energize their base, but as an observer I just don't think it's right. I've lived and worked in Alabama and I know you'll never go broke betting on the Republican candidate, even the crazy Republican candidate.

As an aside I did take a few minutes to dig into the crosstabs to see if anything odd shows up in this latest poll to explain the tie. Sometimes you'll find something there, such as more respondents of a particular socio-demographic group included than you'd normally see, thus skewing the results one way or the other. For example, more educated respondents than normal would favor Jones and more white evangelical respondents than normal would favor Moore.  Nothing jumps out at me, but then again I don't have baseline numbers to work with. We'll just have to wait for another poll to see if Jones has indeed clawed into a tie with Moore.