Alabama Legislature

Daily News Poll: GOP Voters Support Prison Infrastructure, Education Reform; Want State House Access

MONTGOMERY – A new poll of Alabama Republicans shows voters are open to a prison infrastructure plan, want the State House open to the public and support both charter schools and the Alabama Literacy Act.

In addition, a plurality of Republican voters supported the 2019 gas tax increase, known as Rebuild Alabama.

State lawmakers and Gov. Kay Ivey are negotiating the details of legislation to build at least three new prisons and renovate some existing ones, paid for by a combination of federal Rescue Plan funds and a state bond. Asked if they would support or oppose such a plan, 62.8% said they would support, 15.8% said they would oppose and 14.5% said they would neither support nor oppose.

Alabama’s state prisons are underfunded and overcrowded, creating a dangerous situation for prison guards and inmates. The state is facing a federal lawsuit over the poor condition ofAlabama’s prisons. Do you support or oppose Governor Ivey and state lawmakers using federal funds and a long term state bond to build new prisons and renovate old ones?

Response %
Strongly support 28.1%
Somewhat support 34.7%
Total support 62.8%
Somewhat oppose 8.2%%
Strongly disapprove 7.6%
Total disapprove 15.8%
Unsure 7.0%
Neither support of oppose 14.5%

 

As Alabama Daily News previously reported, such a plan would likely require a special session of the Legislature, which could happen as soon as September. That could make for difficult decisions for legislative leaders and State House staff on who to allow into the building amid the current spike in COVID-19 due to the delta variant. The State House was mostly closed to the public, including lobbyists, during the last two legislative sessions due to concerns about the spread of COVID-19. Video feeds were provided for almost every meeting.

Asked how important it is for citizens to have in-person access to their elected representatives while the Legislature is conducting business, 80.1% said it was important, 14% said it was unimportant and 5.9% said they were unsure.

How important is it to you for citizens to have in-person access to their elected representatives while the State Legislature is meeting and conducting business?

Response %
Very important 48.4%
Somewhat important 31.7%
Total important 80.1%
Somewhat unimportant 5.7%
Very unimportant 8.3%
Total unimportan 14.0%
Unsure 5.9%

 

The survey tested two topical education reform issues: Charter schools and the Alabama Literacy Act.

Charter schools are public schools run by private or non-profit entities that are given special exemptions from education laws in order to enhance quality or specialize in a course of study. A 2015 law legalized charter schools in Alabama, but a recent bill to make their local funding more equal to traditional public schools failed a vote in the House.

A full 64.5% of Republicans said they support charter schools while 15.2% said they opposed them and 13% said they had no opinion.

Charter schools are tuition-free public schools which 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 %
Strongly support 43.9%
Somewhat support 20.6%
Total support 64.5%
Somewhat oppose 7.5%
Strongly oppose 7.7%
Total oppose 15.2%
Unsure 7.4%
Neither support of oppose 13.0%

 

Support for the Literacy Act was even stronger. Passed in 2019, the law includes requirements for enhanced teacher training, student screenings and additional help for struggling readers, including summer programs. Lawmakers and Ivey have dedicated millions of dollars to the effort, but earlier this year, lawmakers passed a bill delaying by two years the provision requiring students not reading at grade level by 3rd grade to be held back. Ivey vetoed the bill.

Asked about the law, 80.7% of Republican voters said they supported it, while 9.8% said they opposed it.

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 them up before moving on to fourth grade. Do you support or oppose this law? 

Response %
Strongly support 59.4%
Somewhat support 21.3%
Total support 80.7%
Somewhat oppose 5.2%
Strongly oppose 4.5%
Total oppose 9.8%
Unsure 3.6%
Neither support of oppose 5.9%

 

Among the heaviest legislative lifts of the current term was the 2019 gas tax increase known as Rebuild Alabama that is meant to pay for improved road and bridge infrastructure. The plan passed overwhelmingly in the Legislature but received criticism from Republican circles, including an official condemnation from ALGOP executive committee.

Asked about that plan, 44.8% said the increase was necessary, 39.1% said the gas tax was high enough and should not have been raised, 4.4% said lawmakers didn’t raise it high enough and 11.7% were unsure.

A couple of years ago, the Alabama Legislature passed the first gas tax increase in decades to fund 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 %
The gas tax increase was necessary to pay for improvements to Alabama’s roads and bridges. 44.8%
Somewhat important The gas tax was already high enough and lawmakers should not have raised it. 39.1%
Lawmakers didn’t raise the gas tax enough to pay for all the needed improvements. 4.4%
Unsure 11.7%

 

Finally, the survey tested support for tolls to pay for infrastructure improvements. Last year, the Alabama Department of Transportation was forced to shelve a proposal for a new Interstate 10-bridge linking Mobile and Baldwin Counties paid for with tolls after local opposition spiked the project. Asked about the use of tolls to pay for road and bridge improvements, Republican voters were against the idea to the tune of 49.2% to 30.8%.

There has been discussion of implementing tolls to fund infrastructure improvements to Alabama’s interstate system such as the proposed I-10 Mobile River Bridge. Do you support or oppose tolling as a means to fund improvements to Alabama’s interstates? 

Response %
Strongly support 12.8
Somewhat support 18.0%
Total support 30.8%
Somewhat oppose 14.5%
Strongly oppose 34.7%
Total oppose 49.2%
Unsure 5.4%
Neither support of oppose 14.7%

 

The survey, commissioned by Alabama Daily News and conducted by Cygnal, took place Aug. 17-18 among 600 likely Republican primary voters and has a margin of error of +/- 4.0%.  Known registered voters were interviewed via live phone calls, interactive voice response and text message invitation in Cygnal’s multi-mode survey method.