Public Opinion on Issues Related to State Governmentcomment (0)
March 10, 2011
By Jim Williams
Each year, the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama conducts a public opinion survey on issues related to state government. While some questions are unique to a particular survey, many are consistent from year to year. This allows us to see the continuity of attitudes and monitor shifts in opinion as they occur.
This year’s survey recorded the answers of 536 people who were representative of Alabama both demographically and geographically, providing statistical confidence in the results.
When asked to name the top issue facing the Legislature, Alabamians most often listed jobs and the economy, as they have for the past three years. Education, the top issue prior to the Great Recession, remained a solid second.
Respondents were asked to rank their own budget priorities among four major state investments: education, health care for the poor and elderly, public safety including law enforcement and corrections and highways. Half ranked education first and a third listed health care first. Less than 10 percent of respondents picked either public safety or highways as their first priority.
We also asked people if they would pay more to avoid budget cuts for any of these four big programs. Only education and health care received majority support. These priorities have been consistent over the years in our surveys.
The survey asked about a wide range of options for resolving Alabama’s budget shortfall. Three were approved by a majority: reorganizing state agencies and cutting state employment (68 percent), increasing employee contributions for retirement benefits (65 percent) and releasing nonviolent offenders from prison (55 percent). Increasing class sizes and reducing school days were rejected by big majorities, as were increases in taxes and college tuition.
About half of respondents favored revising the Alabama Constitution; those in favor were divided evenly between a constitutional convention and an article-by-article revision by the Legislature.
More than two-thirds were in favor of giving counties more power to manage their own operations and regulate nuisances with appropriate statewide standards.
This year’s survey found respondents less negative about “officials in Montgomery.” Two-fifths were optimistic that recent ethics reforms will bring about a positive change in state government, and almost two-thirds said electing new people will make some difference in results.
A more detailed discussion of survey results will be available soon at http://parca.samford.edu.
EDITOR’S NOTE — Jim Williams is executive director for the nonprofit, nonpartisan Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama. Jim may be contacted at email@example.com.