A new poll finds that Republican Senate candidate and accused child molester Roy Moore still holds a commanding lead among evangelicals in the state. In fact, a plurality of registered evangelical Christian voters say they are more likely to support him after hearing about allegations that he sexually abused a 14-year-old, dated teenage girls, and groped women in his office.
The new survey, which was conducted November 27-28 and released by JMC Analytics, reported that 64 percent of self-identified Alabama evangelicals say they support Moore over his Democratic opponent Doug Jones, a 7 point increase from a similar poll conducted by the same firm in early November, immediately after the allegations were first reported by the Washington Post.
Even more strikingly, 39 percent of respondents—a plurality—said they were more likely to support Moore after hearing about the rash of sexual misconduct allegations levied against him in recent weeks (28 percent said they were less likely, and 33 percent reported “no difference” in their opinion). This is technically an increase from early November, when 37 percent of evangelicals said they were more likely to support Moore despite the accusations—although it rests within the poll’s 3.8 percent margin of error.
And despite JMC’s early November poll showing Jones beating Moore, the new survey shows a flip in Moore’s favor: Moore now holds a 5-point lead among all registered voters, boasting 48 percent support to Jones’ 43 percent.
The poll isn’t without some caveats. JMC Analytics carries a “C” rating from data journalism website FiveThirtyEight, although that classification does not disqualify them as a polling source. The poll—which has 650 respondents, not necessarily atypical for state polls but below the ideal 1,000 threshold often preferred by pollsters—also does not distinguish between evangelicals by race, gender, or specific denomination, simply asking respondents whether or not they identify as “evangelical.”
It’s not immediately clear why Alabama evangelicals have taken this position, although there are indications many voters in the state are skeptical of the allegations: a new Change Research poll released on Tuesday found that just 9 percent of Alabamians who voted for Donald Trump believe the allegations against Moore are credible.
Regardless, the JMC Analytics survey is one of the few data-driven glimpses into the thinking of Alabama evangelicals, a powerful voting bloc in the state. White evangelical Protestants make up 35 percent of the state overall according to PRRI, and 58 percent of the Alabama Republican party. The group is rarely broken out in state-level polling, but is a crucial factor in the rise of Roy Moore, who has forged a career advocating for a hardline form of Christian nationalism. Moore was famously removed from office after he refused take down a statue of the Ten Commandments on government grounds, and suspended again in 2016 for instructing the state’s probate judges to defy federal court orders on same-sex marriage.
Moore has also put his evangelical Christian supporters at the center of his campaign message. Earlier this month, his wife Kayla Moore published a letter purportedly signed by more then 50 pastors endorsing the candidate, despite the rash of allegations against him.
The letter turned out to be rife with issues. At least four of the pastors listed said they did not endorse Moore or wanted their names removed from the letter, and others admitted to ThinkProgress that they do not live in the state of Alabama. Meanwhile, some national-level evangelical leaders have publicly criticized Moore’s candidacy or asked him to step down, and dozens of other evangelical pastors signed a letter declaring him “not fit for office.”
Still, many of Moore’s evangelical confidantes have stuck by his side, reiterating their endorsements. In one instance, realtor and Baptist minister Earl Wise said that he not only still stood by Roy Moore, but told the Boston Globe he would continue to support him even if the allegations were proven true.
And according to this new poll, many Alabama evangelicals are sticking by him as well.