Doug Jones needed a surge of black voter turnout and a wide gender gap to pull off his stunning victory over embattled Republican Roy Moore in Tuesday’s special Senate election.
In becoming the first Democrat to win a statewide federal election in Alabama since 1992, Jones proved that Democratic fears of low turnout among African-American voters — a reliable Democratic constituency in the racially polarized state — were unfounded. According to exit polls conducted by the National Election Pool, blacks made up about 29 percent of the electorate on Tuesday and voted for Jones almost unanimously, 96 percent to 4 percent — results that match turnout patterns showing greater than expected vote counts in many of the Black Belt counties and the state’s urban centers.
Jones also made some inroads among white voters — particularly women and those with college degrees. While Moore still won white voters by a more-than-2-to-1 margin, 68 percent to 30 percent, that is closer than other recent elections in which Republicans won nearly 4 out of 5 white voters.
Moore posted those kinds of margins among whites without a college degree, but he only carried white voters with college degrees by 17 points, 57 percent to 40 percent for Jones. And Jones successfully siphoned away 34 percent of white women, including 45 percent of white women with college degrees.
Among female voters as a whole, Jones won by 16 points, 57 percent to 41 percent, swamping Moore’s 14-point win among male voters.
Moore was dogged by the allegations of sexual misconduct that dominated the race — more than a half-dozen women came forward to allege that Moore assaulted or pursued them when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s. While Moore’s denials were sufficient for a significant share of voters, a narrow majority thought Moore’s accusers were telling the truth.
Fully 52 percent of voters said the sexual misconduct allegations against Moore were true, according to the exit poll — and 89 percent of them voted for Jones. By contrast, 43 percent said they were false, with Moore winning 94 percent of those voters.
A 60 percent majority said the allegations were at least a minor factor in their votes, and Jones won more than two-thirds of them. Among the 35 percent who said the allegations against Moore were not a factor at all, the Republican won 76 percent of the vote.
That was also reflected in another gender gap: parents with children living at home. Among men with children under 18, Moore won by 15 points, 56 percent to 41 percent. But among mothers with children under 18, Jones won by a 34-point margin, 66 percent to 32 percent.
President Donald Trump’s endorsement earlier this month appeared to help Moore, but it wasn’t enough to pull him across the finish line. Among voters who said they made up their minds in the final two weeks of the campaign, Moore led by 12 points, 54 percent to 42 percent. But the bulk of voters decided before that, and Jones carried them by 7 points.
Despite Alabama’s Republican orientation, Trump’s support was not a silver bullet. A combination of Trump’s eroded position nationally and Democratic enthusiasm at the ballot box led to this remarkable stat: The percentage of voters on Tuesday who disapproved of the job Trump is doing as president (48 percent) was equal to the percentage who approve of Trump (48 percent).
So how did Jones do what no Democrat could do in Alabama for the past two decades — make the math work to win a statewide election in a federal race?
In a sign of continued Democratic enthusiasm across the country, self-identified Republicans only outnumbered Democrats in the exit poll by 6 percentage points, 43 percent to 37 percent. Jones won a whopping 98 percent of those Democratic voters, compared to Moore’s 91 percent of Republicans.
Jones also managed to fight Moore to a near-draw in the suburbs, according to exit polls that showed Moore ahead in suburban areas by just 4 points, 51 percent to 47 percent. Moore won big in rural areas, 62 percent to 36 percent.
But he was besieged by Jones’ margins in the state’s urban areas, where Jones won by 71 points, 85 percent to 14 percent. It was the votes in the late-reporting urban centers of Birmingham, Montgomery and Mobile that put Jones over the top in the vote count Tuesday night, after Moore had led for most of the evening. (Politico)