MONTGOMERY – New poll of Alabama Republicans shows voters are open to a prison infrastructure plan, want State House open to the public, and support both charter schools and the Alabama Literacy Act .
Additionally, a plurality of Republican voters supported the 2019 gas tax increase, known as Rebuild Alabama.
State lawmakers and Governor Kay Ivey are negotiating details of legislation to build at least three new prisons and renovate existing ones, funded by a combination of federal bailout funds and a state bond . When asked if they would support or oppose such a plan, 62.8% said they would be in favor, 15.8% said they would oppose it and 14.5% said they would neither support nor oppose.
Alabama state prisons are underfunded and overcrowded, creating a dangerous situation for prison guards and inmates. The state faces a federal lawsuit over the poor condition of Alabama’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?
|A little support||34.7%|
|To oppose somewhat||8.2 %%|
|Neither the support nor the opposition||14.5%|
As the Alabama Daily News previously reported, such a plan would likely require a special session of the Legislature, which could take place as early as September. This could make difficult decisions for legislative leaders and State House staff on who to allow entry into the building amid the current peak of COVID-19 due to the delta variant. The State House has been mostly closed to the public, including lobbyists, for the past two legislative sessions over concerns over the spread of COVID-19. Video feeds were provided for almost all of the meetings.
When asked about the importance for citizens of having in-person access to their elected representatives while the Legislature is operating, 80.1% said it was important, 14% said it was not important and 5.9% said they were not sure.
How important is it to you that citizens have in-person access to their elected representatives while the state legislature meets and operates?
|A little unimportant||5.7%|
|Total not important||14.0%|
The survey tested two topical issues regarding education reform: charter schools and the Alabama Literacy Act.
Charter schools are public schools operated by private or non-profit entities that benefit from special exemptions from education laws in order to improve quality or specialize in a curriculum. A 2015 law legalized charter schools in Alabama, but a recent bill to make their local funding more equal to that of traditional public schools failed a vote in the House.
A total of 64.5% of Republicans said they supported charter schools while 15.2% said they were against it and 13% said they had no opinion.
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. Although they are subject to the same academic demands as traditional public schools, they have 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?
|A little support||20.6%|
|To oppose somewhat||7.5%|
|Neither the support nor the opposition||13.0%|
Support for the literacy law was even stronger. Passed in 2019, the law includes requirements for improved teacher training, screenings for students, and additional help for struggling readers, including summer programs. Lawmakers and Ivey spent millions of dollars on the effort, but earlier this year lawmakers passed a bill delaying by two years the provision requiring that students who do not read at the grade 3 level be detained. . Ivey vetoed the bill.
When 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 at grade level by the end of third grade. The law provides funds to train reading teachers and intensive support for struggling students. As a last resort, if a pupil cannot read, he is held for a year to catch up before moving on to fourth year. Do you support or are you opposed to this law?
|A little support||21.3%|
|To oppose somewhat||5.2%|
|Neither the support nor the opposition||5.9%|
The 2019 gasoline tax hike known as Rebuild Alabama, intended to fund upgrades to roads and bridges, is among the heaviest pieces of legislation in the current legislature. The plan was overwhelmingly adopted by the Legislative Assembly, but received criticism from Republican circles, including a formal condemnation from the ALGOP executive committee.
When asked about this plan, 44.8% said the increase was necessary, 39.1% said the gasoline tax was high enough and should not have been increased, 4.4% said lawmakers had not increased it enough and 11.7% were unsure.
A few years ago, the Alabama Legislature passed the first gasoline tax increase in decades to fund road and bridge improvements and construction. These additional funds must be used for the construction of roads and bridges and cannot be diverted for other purposes. Which of the following statements is closest to your opinion?
|The increase in the gasoline tax was necessary to pay for improvements to Alabama’s roads and bridges.||44.8%|
|Significant enough The gasoline tax was already high enough that lawmakers should not have raised it.||39.1%|
|Lawmakers did not raise the gas tax enough to pay for all the necessary improvements.||4.4%|
Finally, the survey tested support for tolls to pay for infrastructure improvements. Last year, the Alabama Department of Transportation was forced to put aside a proposed new Interstate 10 bridge connecting Mobile and Baldwin counties paid for with tolls after local opposition boosted the project. Asked about the use of tolls to pay for improvements to roads and bridges, Republican voters were opposed by 49.2% to 30.8%.
There have been discussions about implementing tolls to fund infrastructure improvements to Alabama’s interstate system, such as the proposed Mobile River I-10 bridge. Do you support or oppose the toll as a way to fund improvements to Alabama’s freeways?
|A little support||18.0%|
|To oppose somewhat||14.5%|
|Neither the support nor the opposition||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 SMS invitation in Cygnal’s multi-mode survey method.