MONTGOMERY — A new poll shows former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville with a double-digit lead over former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions in the Republican runoff for U.S. Senate.
A survey conducted by Cygnal showed that if the March 31 runoff election were held today, 51.5% of voters would choose Tuberville, while 39.5% would choose Sessions. Nine percent of voters remained undecided.
The survey of 645 likely Republican runoff voters was conducted March 6-8 using Cygnal’s “probabilistic mixed-mode” method that utilizes text and interactive voice response to reflect how voters now communicate. It has a margin for error of +/-3.86%.
The two candidates finished close in the March 3 primary, with Tuberville 33.39% of the vote to Sessions’ 31.65%. Congressman Bradley Byrne finished third with 24.89%. The winner of the runoff between Tuberville and Sessions will go on to face incumbent Democratic Sen. Doug Jones in November.
The morning after the election, President Donald Trump tweeted about the results and taunted Sessions by saying he was responsible for the “Russia Witch Hunt.” Sessions recused himself from overseeing the Department of Justice investigation into Russian attempts to influence the 2016 election due to the fact he was part of the Trump campaign, but the decision angered the president and eventually led to Sessions’ removal as attorney general.
In another key finding, the poll showed that a strong plurality of voters think that Trump is opposed to Sessions in the race. When asked if they agree or disagree that Trump is opposed to Sessions, 45% said they agreed, 15.5% said they disagreed and 31.9% said they neither agreed nor disagreed.
Of the 45% that agree that Trump is opposed to Sessions, 67% are planning to vote for Tuberville, the Cygnal survey showed.
Trump Opposed to Sessions
|Neither agree nor disagree||–||–||31.9%|
In the primary, Byrne was especially competitive in the coastal Mobile and Baldwin counties, where he won 52.68% and 56.31%, respectively. Most political observers consider Byrne supporters – both whether they vote and for whom they vote – potentially decisive in the runoff.
According to the Cygnal survey, 37.9% of those who said they voted for Byrne plan to vote for Sessions, while 45.1% plan to vote for Tuberville and 17% remain undecided. A full 94.3% of Byrne voters said they “definitely” planned to vote in the runoff while 5.7% said they “probably” would vote.
“Starting at a 12-point deficit is going to be a big hurdle for Sessions to get over, especially if he continues to draw the ire – and tweets – of the president,” said Chris Kratzer, Cygnal’s vice president of research and analysis.
Cygnal founder and CEO Brent Buchanan added that his survey research shows that Sessions’ unfavorability among GOP voters has increased over the course of the primary campaign.
“Now that Trump has gotten involved, it’s unlikely the former attorney general will be able to overcome the gap in how voters see Tuberville as more strongly favorable,” Buchanan said.
“Trump may not be able to pull a candidate across the finish line, but he sure can keep a candidate from getting there first.”
A full rundown of the survey, including top lines and cross tabs, is available on Cygnal’s website.