By TODD STACY, Alabama Daily News
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Fresh polling of Alabama Republican primary voters shows views holding decidedly steady on key issues like gambling, education and gas taxes.
A recent survey commissioned by Alabama Daily News and Gray Television included several questions on topical issues that are being debated in the Legislature and on the campaign trail. Many of the questions mirrored a similar poll conducted in August.
On the perennial issue of gambling, Republican voters are mostly unchanged on the subject. The Legislature is currently considering two competing proposals: a Senate plan that would institute a lottery, legalize sports betting and allow existing casinos to expand; and a House plan that would only institute a lottery.
When asked about proposals, 43.5% said the state should legalize and tax a lottery, sports betting and casinos, while 20.5% said the state should pursue only a lottery and 25.7% said they are against expanding any form of gambling. Those numbers are consistent with the August poll that asked the same question.
The Legislature is considering a gambling proposal that includes a lottery, legalized sports betting and expanded casino gambling, which would help education, health care, and broadband internet. What best describes your position on gambling?
|The state should legalize and tax a lottery, sports betting and casinos.||43.5%|
|The state should legalize and tax only a lottery.||20.5%|
|I'm against expanding any form of gambling.||25.7%|
As part of the gambling discussion the past few years has been whether or not the state should limit the political contributions of gambling interests in the state. A similar approach that was attempted in Pennsylvania ran into constitutional free speech issues. A plurality of those polled (43.6%) said they would support such limits, while 34.9% said they would oppose them.
If the gambling plan passes, would you support or oppose limiting political campaign contributions from large casino and gambling interests in Alabama elections?
|Neither support or oppose||13.3%|
Support also remains steady for the gas tax and infrastructure plan passed in 2019. When asked their opinion of the plan, a plurality of Republican voters, 43.6%, said it was necessary to pay for improvements to Alabama’s roads and bridges, while 41.7% said the gas tax was already too high and lawmakers should not have raised it. Adding in the 2.9% who said lawmakers didn’t raise the gas tax enough, a full 46.5% of Republicans are supportive of increasing gas taxes to pay for infrastructure. Those numbers are virtually unchanged from August, which is notable considering the current record high gas prices and a recent barrage of TV and radio advertisements criticizing the gas tax.
In 2019, the Alabama Legislature passed the first gas tax increase in decades to fund the improvement and construction of roads and bridges. These additional funds are required to be used for road and bridge construction and cannot be diverted for any other purpose. Which of the following statements comes closest to your opinion?
|Response||March 2020||August 2021|
|The gas tax increase was necessary to pay for improvements to Alabama's roads and bridges.||43.6%||44.8%|
|The gas tax was already high enough and lawmakers should not have raised it.||41.7%||39.1%|
|Lawmakers didn't raise the gas tax enough to pay for all the needed improvements.||2.9%||4.4%|
Opponents of Gov. Kay Ivey are attempting to capitalize on the historically high gas prices to criticize the 2019 gas tax and infrastructure plan and Ivey’s leadership of it. Yet, the survey shows voters are casting blame elsewhere for high prices at the pump.
Asked who or what was to blame for historically high gas prices, 80.9% said President Joe Biden’s policies and 10.3% said the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Only 2% of Republican voters blame Ivey and the Legislature for the increased prices, a choice that ranked behind the COVID-19 pandemic and undecided.
The price of a gallon of gas is at record highs in Alabama and across the country. Which of the following do you believe is the primary contributor to the rising price of gasoline?
|The COVID-19 pandemic||2.1%|
|The Russian invasion of Ukraine||10.3%|
|President Biden's policies||80.9%|
|Gov. Ivey and the Alabama Legislature||2.0%|
The survey also tested a few education issues that are being debated in the Legislature. Lawmakers are right now considering legislation that would delay the retention provision of the Alabama Literacy Act by two years, which Ivey and some Republicans have opposed. Their voters also seem opposed to such a delay by a 56.5% to 25.8% margin.
The Alabama Literacy Act requires that students be able to read on grade level by the end of third grade. The law provides funds to train reading teachers, and intensive support for students who struggle. As a last resort, if a student cannot read, they are retained for a year to catch up before moving on to fourth grade. Some in the Legislature want to delay this law by two years due to COVID, meaning students would be promoted whether or not they could read. Do you support or oppose this delay of the Alabama Literacy Act?
|Neither support of oppose||10.9%|
The House will soon vote on a Senate-passed plan to aim more focus and resources toward math instruction in lower grades in an attempt to address Alabama’s last-in-the-nation test scores. When asked if they would support the plan to modernize the way math is taught to better prepare students, 56.3% of voters said they supported such efforts while only 15.9% said they were opposed.
Alabama is ranked last in the nation in math. Do you support or oppose modernizing the way we teach math to better prepare students for the real world and a changing economy?
|Neither support of oppose||16.3%|
Another bill in the State House addresses the issue of public charter school funding by ensuring that local county tax dollars follow students to charter schools just as federal and state dollars do. Alabama Republicans remain strongly favorable toward charter schools, with 62.3% in support, only 17% in opposition and 14.5% neutral on the subject. Those numbers are barely changed from the August poll.
Charter schools are tuition-free public schools that are governed by an independent board rather than a local school board and serve students who choose to attend. While they are subject to the same academic requirements as traditional public schools, they are given the autonomy to develop their own curriculum, hire their own staff, and manage their own budgets. Based on this information, do you support or oppose charter schools?
|Response||March 2022||August 2021|
|Neither support of oppose||14.5%||13.0%|