New independent polling released on Sunday provides insight into Senator Doug Jones’ (D-AL) 2020 reelection prospects.
John Couvillon of Louisiana’s JMC Analytics conducted a general election survey from December 16-18 using a combination of robocalls to landlines (49%) and texts to cell phones (51%). There were 525 respondents, with the poll having a margin of error of 4.30%. Respondents were varying degrees of likely voters, all having at least voted in the 2016 general election.
The first question asked was whether respondents believed President Donald Trump should be reelected. 54% indicated “yes,” while 42% said no and 3% were undecided.
The same question was then asked about Jones, Alabama’s junior senator who was elected in a December 2017 special election.
Only 34% of respondents supported Jones’ reelection, while 48% opposed and 18% were undecided.
The third question saw 39% responding that they supported impeaching Trump, while 54% opposed and 7% were undecided.
The next five questions were hypothetical general election matchups between Jones and his major GOP challengers.
Former Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville fared best against Jones in the survey, although former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-01) were also up against Jones within the margin of error of Tuberville’s lead.
When asked if they would vote for Sessions or Jones (with party identifications being given in all matchup questions), 46% preferred Sessions, 41% answered Jones and 13% were undecided.
Next, 47% chose Tuberville, 40% responded Jones and 13% were undecided.
Byrne, who has lower name identification than Tuberville, Sessions and Jones, received 44% against Jones’ 40%, with 16% being undecided.
However, not all well-known Republicans matched up well against Jones. Former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, who lost to Jones in 2017, has been polling a distant fourth in the 2020 GOP primary.
While it may thus be purely academic, Moore would likely face the same fate against Jones this time around. 47% would vote for Jones if they were running against each other in 2020, while only 33% would choose Moore. 20% were undecided.
Finally, State Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-AL), who has by far the lowest name identification of any of the candidates in the poll, received 34% compared to Jones at 40%, with 25% being undecided.
The final questions were demographic. 56% of respondents described themselves as an evangelical Christian, while 32% would not describe themselves that way. 11% were undecided.
54% of respondents were female, compared to 46% male.
Regarding the age of respondents, 14% were 18-34, 29% were 35-54, 21% were 55-64 and 37% were 65 or older.
Analyzing the poll
Yellowhammer News reached out to renowned political data analyst and strategist Jim McLaughlin of McLaughlin & Associates regarding Couvillon’s survey.
McLaughlin, who is considered one of the nation’s best pollsters (including in Alabama, where he is considered the “gold standard”), then scrutinized the poll, including its methodology, cross tabs and takeaways.
In an email to Yellowhammer News, he explained that the combination of robo-landline calls and cell phone texts utilized are considered a “low budget” survey in the industry.
For independent, media polls like this one that are not paid for by a candidate or interested entity, these types of surveys are utilized because live callers are more expensive.
McLaughlin advised, “The most accurate surveys these days are cell phone surveys, folks don’t do them for media polls because they are expensive… because we can’t use auto-dialers, we have to dial the cells by hand, it’s the law and it’s expensive.”
Another methodology-related issue should be noted.
“They didn’t ask party or ideology which are staple questions for any voter so it’s tough to see if this is really representative of the Alabama voter universe,” McLaughlin outlined. “When I normally get a survey back the first things I check are things like Party, Ideology and race to make sure it matches with the electorate. It’s an important quality control.”
The JMC Analytics poll did report the racial breakdown of respondents: 73% white and 25% black. That breakdown is closely in line with the 2016 general election breakdown. McLaughlin did also note that the survey sample was on the older side, as far as the age breakdown goes.
In the publicly released survey memo, Couvillon, the pollster, wrote, “There are two main takeaways from this poll: (1) While absolute majorities still support President Trump, his support has softened some relative to his 2016 numbers, and (2) Senator Doug Jones faces a challenging re-election.”
“While Donald Trump carried Alabama by an overwhelming 62-34% margin in 2016 (against Hillary Clinton), his re-election numbers are noticeably less at 54-42%,” he added.
McLaughlin took issue with this Trump-related conclusion.
“They create a false equivalency between a re-elect question and Trump’s 2016 performance. Re-elect questions are used to gauge intensity. They needed to ask ballot questions for Trump like they did for the US Senate race. My guess is Trump would be beat any of the Dems similar to what he did to Hillary. Heck, he would probably beat most of them by as much, if not more than Hillary,” he stated.
What McLaughlin is explaining here can be compared to Jones’ numbers in the JMC Analytics survey. While only 34% of respondents first answered that they wanted to see Jones reelected, Jones’ vote percentage went up when respondents were given an option between him and specific Republicans on the ballot tests.
“I have seen numbers in Alabama where Trump’s job rating is over 60% STATEWIDE, Alabama is one of the President’s best states,” McLaughlin added.
However, he did not disagree on Couvillon’s takeaway about Jones.
“When you are an incumbent and you are under 50%, let alone losing, you’re in deep trouble,” McLaughlin concluded.
View the JMC Analytics polling memo and cross tabs here.
Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn