A new poll shows the Senate race in Alabama is now too close to call, following an accusation that Republican nominee Roy Moore pursued a sexual encounter with a 14-year-old girl in 1979.
Moore and Democrat Doug Jones are tied at 46% in the survey, which was conducted Thursday by Opinion Savvy and commissioned by Decision Desk HQ in the aftermath of a bombshell Washington Post report in which the accuser, now 53, went on record with her story.
The results also suggested that a write-in campaign by another Republican could tip the seat to Democrats — a prospect that once seemed far-fetched in deep-red Alabama. A three-way race — with Moore, Jones, and interim Sen. Luther Strange as a write-in candidate — would favor Jones with roughly 44% of the vote, followed by Moore at 41%, and Strange at 12%.
The poll surveyed 515 likely voters by landline and mobile and has a margin of error of 4 points.
The Strange scenario is important, because Moore has denied the accusation and shows no signs of exiting the race. And based on Alabama elections law, it appears to be too late to replace him on the December special election ballot anyway. There has been buzz, in the 24 hours since the Post story broke, about Strange or someone else attempting a write-in bid, but the poll validates concerns that such a candidate could split the GOP vote with Moore.
Strange, despite the backing of President Donald Trump and much of the Republican establishment, lost a September primary to Moore. The seat previously belonged to Jeff Sessions, who’s now serving as Trump’s attorney general in Washington.
Most of those surveyed Thursday — 82% — were aware of the woman’s accusation. And 54% do not believe Moore should withdraw from the race because of it; 35% do.
The allegations appear to have cost Moore with women: About 39% would vote for him now, down from 46% in a Decision Desk poll after the September primary. Moore’s standing with men remained the same, at 55%. (That September poll had Moore leading Jones by 6 points.)
BuzzFeed News has partnered with Decision Desk HQ for live election results coverage in 2018.