10/6/04 Contact: David Granger, 334/844-9986 (grangdm@auburn.edu)

ASK ALABAMA POLL: MOST ALABAMIANS SEE PUBLIC EDUCATION AS A PRIORITY, FAVOR LOTTERY TO FUND IT

AUBURN - Almost eight of 10 Alabamians believe public education is either an urgent or high priority local policy issue and a majority strongly support a lottery to benefit public education in the state.

These are among the findings of the most recent Ask Alabama poll, conducted by the Center for Governmental Services at Auburn University. Ask Alabama releases monthly results of polls on topics of interest to Alabamians.

According to Ask Alabama's June telephone survey of 609 voting-age Alabamians, 78 percent see public education as an urgent or high priority local policy issue (32 percent said it's urgent and 46 percent called it high priority.)

Meanwhile, 55.1 percent of the poll respondents "strongly support" a lottery to benefit public education in their communities and an additional 13.8 percent "support" it. In all, 68.9 percent favor a lottery.

On the other side of the lottery issue, only 24.6 percent of those polled either strongly oppose (19.1 percent) or mildly oppose (5.5 percent) a lottery to fund public education.

"Support or opposition to an educational lottery in Alabama does not seem to be affected strongly by gender, occupation, income, education, race or the size of one's community," said Ask Alabama pollster Jim Seroka. "On the other hand, political party identification and political philosophy seem to make a difference. Those who identified themselves as strong Republicans or very conservative were much more likely to strongly oppose a lottery."

Seroka said 32 percent of those who said they were strong Republicans strongly opposed the lottery and 46 percent of those who said they were very conservative were also in strong opposition.

In addition to education, poll respondents were asked to rate the urgency of fourteen other community issues. From the list of issues rated, job availability was the single other issue that more than 70 percent of respondents - 72 percent - said was either urgent or high priority. More than 60 percent of those polled labeled honesty of local officials (68 percent), crime and law enforcement (67 percent) healthcare availability (62 percent) and/or business and commercial growth (60 percent) as urgent or high priority issues.

When asked to cite the most critical local issue, however, the responses differed slightly. A slightly higher percentage - 16.5 to 14.1 - labeled jobs and economic development more critical than education. The only other issues that more than five percent of the respondents cited as the most critical issue facing their community were road improvement (10.8 percent) and police protection, crime and drugs (9.7 percent).

Other findings of the Ask Alabama poll on community issues in Alabama include:

* Eighty-three percent of Alabamians believe that the quality of life in their local community is either the same (60 percent) or has improved (23 percent) over last year; and

* Only 19 percent of the respondents are unhappy with the actions of their local elected leadership in moving their community in a positive direction.

Complete results of the poll on community issues in Alabama can be found at www.askalabama.org. The Ask Alabama poll includes a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.

Ask Alabama telephone surveys on issues of interest to Alabamians will be conducted quarterly. Each survey will include questions on three distinct topics and Ask Alabama poll results will be released monthly.
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CONTACT: Jim Seroka, 334/844-4781 or jseroka@auburn.edu.