A recent poll shows that more than two-thirds of Alabamians support a state lottery to benefit public education, which an overwhelming majority said is a high priority for them.
The random telephone poll of 609 voting-age Alabamians, conducted by the Center for Governmental Services at Auburn University, found that 55.1 percent of respondents "strongly support" an education lottery and an additional 13.8 percent "support" it, bringing the figure to 68.9 percent in favor.
About 24.6 percent of those polled either "strongly" or "mildly" oppose a lottery. The poll was taken in June and includes a sampling error margin of plus or minus four percentage points.
Nearly 80 percent of the respondents said public education should be an "urgent" or "high priority" for local and state officials.
Alabama Christian Coalition President John Giles, a longtime opponent to legalizing gambling in Alabama, said the poll findings were not surprising. He said a majority of voters in 1999 opposed a lottery proposed by then-Gov. Don Siegelman after polls showed strong support for such a measure.
"However, when we begin educating voters of the corruption tied to gambling dollars ... those numbers will flip like they did in 1999," Giles said.
AU pollster Jim Seroka said opinions on the lottery were not rooted in gender, occupation, income or race, though political philosophy and party affiliation seemed to play a strong role.
Of those who said they were strong Republicans, 32 strongly opposed the lottery, and 36 percent of those who said they were very conservative were also in strong opposition.
Seroka said the findings suggest that smaller number of conservative opposed to the lottery may ultimately outweigh the majority who favor it.
"Even though 69 percent support a lottery, those who oppose it are critical to the governor's political base," he said.
Seroka said respondents were not asked their religious affiliation because of the university's privacy regulations regarding polls.
Giles said religion doesn't make a major impact on whether people support a lottery.
"In the lottery debate, we throw demographics out the window," he said. "You will find some professing Christians who vote for it and some non-professing Christians voting against it. Most people who have moral, social, economic or corruption concerns typically vote against it."