PARCA’s 2020 Public Opinion Survey, completed before the onset of the COVID-19 in the U.S., hints at the challenges state policymakers will face in responding to the pandemic.
The survey finds, once again, aversion to certain taxes, support for public education, and mistrust in state government. At the same time, the survey finds a lack of consensus in how the state should respond to other critical issues facing the state.
Alabamians have a strong aversion to taxes but may not fully understand their tax burden.
- 57% believe they pay the same or more taxes than people like themselves in other states.
- 51% say upper-income earners pay too little. The percent of respondents who believe upper-income earners pay too little has dropped in each of the last four years.
- 49% say lower-income earners pay too much, up from 40% in 2016.
- 48% say they pay the right amount of taxes, compared to 45% in 2010.
Alabamians believe education is the most important service state government provides.
- 78% believe the state spends too little on education, compared to 74% in 2019 and 68% in 2013.
- 69% support increasing taxes to support education, but no single tax increase option garners majority support.
Alabamians value local control of schools.
- 87% say the local board (45%) or state board of education (42%) should set school calendars, while only 3% say the legislature should decide.
- 59% say local boards of education are best suited to decide how education dollars are spent.
Other notable education findings:
- 76.5% believe that taxes on Internet sales should be distributed to local schools in the same way as sales tax revenue from brick-and-mortar sales.
- 66% say any potential lottery revenue should be restricted to the Education Trust Fund.
- 59% oppose using state tax credits to fund private school scholarships.
- 49% say charter schools provided expanded opportunities rather than diverting funds from other schools, but almost 25% don’t know or have no opinion.
- 41% say new education funding should be prioritized to increasing teacher compensation.
Trust in State Government
Alabamians’ trust in state government improved slightly compared to 2019 but is still well below rates reported in the early 2000s.
- 80% support keeping the General Fund and Education Trust Fund separate, down from 82%, but still well above the 69% reported in 2016.
- 66% believe state government officials do not care about their opinions, down from 69% last year. This compares to a low of 55% in 2008 and a high of 74% in 2010.
- 55% believe they have no say in state government, down from 57% last year, but well above the low of 43% in 2008.
Alabamians express a wide variety of opinions on pressing policy issues. We asked respondents to choose their preferred policy response or policy action to such issues as prison overcrowding, taxes, education, and healthcare. Each of these six questions offered multiple responses from a range of perspectives. No single policy proposal garnered a majority response. The closest was a proposal to expand mental health services for the homeless, identified as the most important response to homelessness by 45% of respondents.
Download the full report here.