Doug Jones
Doug Jones, the Democratic candidate for Senate in Alabama. Credit: Doug Jones for Senate/Facebook

Steve M. makes an interesting point. After poking around a bit in the internals of the latest poll of the December 12th special election in Alabama, Steve notices that while 46 percent of respondents say that Republican Roy Moore is unqualified to serve in the Senate, forty percent of those surveyed say the same thing about Democrat Doug Jones. The results, from JMC Analytics and Polling, are the third in a row to show Moore back in the lead, which is in itself impressive considering that close to half the people think he’s unqualified.

For Steve, though, what’s jarring is that so many people think Jones lacks the requisite qualifications. What has he done, after all, to raise questions about his experience or fitness to serve?

I’m sure a lot of these red-state voters don’t like Jones, don’t agree with him on many issues, and don’t approve of the national Democratic Party — but does that make him unqualified?

I’m no fan of the Republicans, but I don’t think most of their candidates are unqualified to serve — sure, Trump is, and I’d have said the same thing about Ben Carson if he’d been the 2016 nominee. But Jeb Bush? Marco Rubio? John Kasich? I don’t like their politics, but they’re qualified. I’d even say Ted Cruz is qualified — a loony extremist, yes, but a qualified one.

The numbers here might be inflated because Republican poll respondents want to play “I’m rubber, you’re glue” in reaction to questions about their hero Roy Moore’s fitness to serve. But still: Is this an indication of Republican voters’ baseline belief regarding Democrats — that any Democrat is unfit to serve, just by dint of being a Democrat?

I think there’s always a temptation to make too much out of the internals of polls since they so often seem not to make any sense. In this case, we’re supposed to reconcile some things that don’t seem to stand on their own. For example, overall this poll shows Moore holding a five point lead on Jones (49 percent to 44 percent). Yet, on the question “Given the campaign that Roy Moore/Doug Jones has run so far, do you think that he is qualified to serve as US Senator?,” Jones (48 percent to 40 percent) looks better than Moore (49 percent to 46 percent).

Based on this, every single person in Alabama who thinks Moore is qualified to serve in the U.S. Senate intends to vote for him. Either that, or there’s a bunch of people who will vote for him even though they don’t think he’s qualified. At the same time, there’s very little difference between the 48 percent of voters who think Jones is qualified and the 44 percent who intend to vote for him.

If there’s one juxtaposition that really stands out here, it’s the fact that Moore has a better spread (five points) against Jones than he has on the qualifications question (three points). The two point difference doesn’t really create much of a distinction. For Jones, however,  there’s a 13 point gap between his plus-eight score on qualifications and his minus-five score on the head-to-head matchup with Moore.

If these numbers tell us anything at all, they tell us that Jones is losing because too many folks think he’s unqualified, and that can only mean that he’s wrong on the issues. In the eyes of many Alabamans, to be qualified to serve in the Senate, you have to vote the right way, too, not just be a decent person. Jones would easily win the good person award. He’s probably not going to win the election.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at