A majority of Alabamians believe key state services are not adequately funded and would be willing to pay more in taxes to avoid cuts in education and healthcare for the poor and elderly. That’s among the findings of an annual public opinion survey conducted by the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama. However the research group found Alabamians are less willing to support tax increases to raise revenue.
About 48 percent of respondents say education is the most important service provided by the state with healthcare for the poor and elderly following at 31 percent. Majorities also believe education and healthcare, along with other key budget items, are not adequately funded.
The expressed support for education is long-standing says Samford University political scientist Randolph Horn. He oversaw the PARCA survey.
“One question we’ve asked dates back over 20 years and Alabamians consistently report that they think education should be better funded,” says Horn.
But those responses are in the abstract. When it comes to specific revenue measures to maintain or increase funding for state programs, support is much lower.
This year’s survey asked about expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Governor Robert Bentley says he’s opposed to expanding Medicaid in its current form, although he’s softened his language against it over the last year. The PARCA research shows a majority, about 54 percent, support expanding Medicaid. But the support splits when considering political party.
“There’s evidence that there’s an increasing sense of alienation from state government,” says Horn.
Additionally, about 60 percent believe earmarking revenue is good. Much of state revenue is earmarked leaving state lawmakers less flexibility in appropriating funds.
Overall, Horn says the survey responses don’t vary much by demographic groups.
“In that way the public seems to be different than some of the elites in politics or political leaders,” says Horn. “They are trying to distinguish themselves from each other or one party or the other. We see a lot of unity in the public.”
The phone survey was conducted from January 4 to January 21, 2016. It has a margin of error of +/- 4.5 percent. You can find more results from the survey here.