Public Opinion in Alabama: Looking Beyond the Stereotypes

Public Opinion in Alabama: Looking Beyond the Stereotypes

by Cal Clark, Don-Terry Veal


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The attitudes of individual citizens play a central role in a democracy. In the United States today, the two major parties are each associated with a broad set of policy positions representing the conservative and liberal political ideologies. The two major parties are becoming increasingly polarized on these ideologies between conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats. This book provides an in-depth examination of public opinion in a single American state, Alabama, to see whether the public opinion of general citizens follows this stereotype of ideological and partisan polarization. Alabama public opinion is analyzed on a fairly wide range of issues, including the quality of public officials, constitutional reform, the role of government in terms of taxes and overall spending, education, health care, religion in public life, crime, and immigration. Alabama is generally perceived as staunchly conservative politically and as a reliably 'red' Republican state in national elections. Yet, public opinion in Alabama is considerably more nuanced and complex than this stereotype in two distinct aspects. First, Alabamians are certainly conservative on many issues, but they are also liberal on a significant number of others. Second, the issue positions of the state's citizens are shaped by three different dynamics in terms of what factors influence specific attitudes. Furthermore a brief analysis of public opinion in the entire United States finds similar patterns. Thus, the current polarization in party politics does not necessarily reflect public opinion in its entirety, suggesting a need to transcend the competing conservative and liberal orthodoxies.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780739145418
Publisher: Lexington Books
Publication date: 11/19/2010
Pages: 114
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Cal Clark is professor of political science and the director of the MPA Program at Auburn University. Don-Terry Veal is director of Auburn University's Center for Governmental Services.

Table of Contents

Tables ix

Chapter 1 Public Opinion and Politics 1

Contradictory Models of Political Attitudes 2

How Alabamians View Their Public Officials 5

Organization of the Book 10

Chapter 2 Support for Constitutional Reform 13

Moderate Support for Rewriting the Alabama State Constitution 14

Stereotypes of Who Supports and Opposes Constitutional Revision 15

Actual Influences on Attitudes about Constitutional Revision 16

Assessing the Simultaneous Effects of the Explanatory Items: The Centrality of the Governmental Activism Dimension 19

Attitudes about Home Rule 20

Public Opinion about Constitutional Reform 23

Chapter 3 Views about the Role of Government 25

Somewhat Contradictory Positions on Tax Issues 25

How Alabamians Divide on Tax Burden and Tax Policy: Support for the Anti-Tax Economic Stress Model 28

The Complex Cleavages over Governor Riley's Tax Referendum 32

Alabamians' Evident Desire for State Services 34

How Alabamians Divide on Government Services: The Prevalence of the Standard Ideological Model 38

The Contradictory Implications of Alabamians' Views about the Role of Government 41

Chapter 4 More Specific Views about Social Services 43

Alabamians' Views on Public Education: Concerns about Both Quality and Traditional Values 43

How Alabamians Divide on Education: Different Dynamics for Different Issues 46

Alabamians' Views about Health Care: Is the Glass Partially Empty or Partially Full? 51

How Alabamians' Divide on Health Care: Medical Problems over Ideology 54

The Conundrum about Education and Health Care in Alabama 57

Chapter 5 Religion and Public Life 61

Alabamians' Views on Religion and Politics: Quite Conservative but with a Couple of Caveats 61

How Alabamians Divide on the Role of Religion in Public Life: Clearly a Cultural Issue 63

A Resistance to Overpoliticizing Some Religious Issues? 67

Religion and Political Life in Alabama 70

Chapter 6 Views about Crime and Immigration 71

Alabamians' Views about Crime: Significant but Not Overwhelming Concern 71

How Alabamians Divide on Crime: An Absence of Significant Relationships 73

Strong Concern over Illegal Immigration 76

Why Alabamians Differ about Illegal Immigration: General Support for the Cultural Issues Ideological Model 81

Immigration and Crime as Issues in Alabama 83

Chapter 7 Public Opinion in Alabama and the United States: Defying the Stereotypes 85

What Do Alabamians Want? 85

The Similar Dynamics in U.S. Public Opinion 90

Public Opinion and the Polarization of U.S. Politics 96

Index 99

About the Authors 101

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