By Fred Backus and Jennifer De Pinto
Most voters casting ballots in Alabama's special election for U.S. Senate say they decided on their candidate some time ago, according to early exit polling. Six in 10 made up their minds before November – largely prior to when allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced against Republican candidate Roy Moore. Still, nearly four in 10 say they made their decision in November or after that, including about one in five who decided this month. About 10 percent of voters of decided in the last few days and they are choosing Moore (56 percent) over Jones (37 percent).
Moore is facing off against Democrat Doug Jones.
Gender and race
There is a gender gap: more than half of men are voting for Moore (57 percent), while most women are voting for Jones (57 percent). Jones' support from women is largely boosted by his support among African American women, 97 percent of whom back him. White women are backing Moore – about two-thirds are supporting him.
So far, African Americans make up roughly 30 percent of the electorate. If it holds it would slightly surpass the 28 percent who turned out to vote in Barack Obama's bid for re-election in 2012. More than nine in 10 blacks are voting for Doug Jones.
Republican Roy Moore has managed to retain strong support of members of his own party (91 percent) , as well as the strong support of conservatives and whites - particularly white evangelicals (8 in 10 are backing him). Most white evangelicals thought the sexual misconduct allegations against Moore were false. Republican women are backing Moore (90 percent), and most said the allegations against him were false.
Democrat Doug Jones is getting strong support from his party (98 percent). He also has the support most younger voters, liberals and moderates.
Right now, more voters have a favorable opinion of Jones (50 percent) than say that about Moore (41 percent). This breaks along party lines with most Democrats having a favorable opinion of Jones, while most Republicans view Moore favorably. But about one in five Republicans view Moore unfavorably, compared to just 2 percent of Democrats who feel that way about Moore.
Fewer than one in 10 Republicans crossed party lines to vote for Doug Jones, but Jones has a slight edge among independents.
Alabama voters divide on the validity of the allegations of sexual misconduct levelled against Moore. Just under half think they are true, while more than four in 10 think they are false. Most Jones voters believe the allegations, while most of Moore's supporters do not.
For roughly 40 percent of the voters, these allegations were an important factor in their vote Tuesday. More than six in 10 Jones supporters say they were an important factor, but about four out of five Moore backers they were not important.
President Trump – who is publicly– seems to be a more important factor to Moore's voters than those who are voting for Doug Jones. While nearly six in 10 Moore voters say one reason for their choice is to express support for Mr. Trump, most of Jones' supporters say the president was not a factor in their decision -- either way.
Slightly more Alabama voters do prefer the U.S. Senate be controlled by the Republican party than by the Democratic party.
At this point, Alabama voters are divided on President Trump's job performance: 48 percent approve, while 48 percent disapprove.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is not popular in Alabama – about 69 percent of voters view him unfavorably. McConnell has said that Moore should have, over the allegations involving teenage girls. Both major political parties are viewed unfavorably by more than half of Alabama voters.
Strength of support
Early exit polling shows Jones voters are more strongly behind their candidate than Moore voters. Eight in 10 Jones voters say they strongly favor him, compared to just over half of Moore backers who say that about him. About a third of Moore supporters say they like him, but have reservations. Over one in 10 Moore voters say they were partly motivated by their dislike of Jones.