What Alabama Voters Really Think

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As Alabama voters choose Tuesday between Republican Roy Moore and Democrat Doug Jones as their next U.S. senator, they will have to weigh a number of competing values beyond the candidates themselves. Does ideology trump character? What should the role of religion be in politics? What makes someone trustworthy? What are the most important issues and traits to you? What kind of world do you want to live in?

As part of our States of the Nation series, OZY has spent a week in each state this year, trying to reintroduce people to their neighbors in this imperfect union. We recently drove from Birmingham to Mobile, stopping in small towns along the way to ask residents a number of questions about their personal and political values.

The controversies swirling around Moore — including accusations that he sexually assaulted teenagers when he was in his 30s — and the pivotal nature of the race for President Donald Trump’s agenda have directed the country’s eyes toward the Yellowhammer State. We were eager to dig deeper into what these much-scrutinized citizens were thinking. We didn’t ask specifically about the Senate race, although some chose to talk about it. Watch the video above to see some of their responses, and read more of their answers below.

How Important Is Morality in Voting?

Eloise Cleckley: If I like his policy, but I don’t like his character, I probably still won’t vote for him.

Ann Russell: Morality is important, but we have an issue right here in Alabama where they are bringing morality allegations against a very good man. I think there are some evil people in Washington who are behind this.

Toni Riales: When you think about it that way, it becomes a tricky question for some people. Because they might have really strong issues about abortion and be very pro-life, yet they look at Roy Moore, and they are very worried … or maybe they’re not? I would be. It depends on the issue. I don’t think a lot of my issues are so much morality-based. I think my issues are practical. I have a big problem with gun violence, yet we can’t get anything done. I have a big problem with the taxation of small businesses versus the taxation of large businesses, because I own a small business. So I think there are a couple of things I care about that aren’t really in the zeitgeist right now.

When it comes to how I weigh a candidate, it’s hard. Because what they say and what they do are never really things that go together. A lot of it you’re taking on faith. You either believe them or you don’t. One of the things I feel strongly about is that you can’t sit it out.

Sandra Trimble: Morality in voting should be maybe a 7, or an 8, on the list. But so many people, especially politicians, make promises they don’t keep.

What Are the Important Issues or Traits When You Look at Candidates?

Anna Ruth Ritchey: Safety, family, community. Just being able to go to the park, grocery store, places nearby in the downtown community. Feeling OK letting your children play outside, feeling OK going to the grocery store late at night and walking through the parking lot by yourself, and feeling OK being able to trust that if you’re going to a business or place of worship or big event, feeling like I can relax and have a good time. Nobody is going to hurt me or my family.

Joseph Young: Is [the candidate] going to be the same to all races of people? I voted for Obama. And I would vote for a Black president if one should run again. If he’s standing on the right morals and right character, yes, I would.

Hunter Freeman: Basically, which way is he going to take this country? I voted for Trump for a lot of reasons. I think he is our last hope to save what’s left of this country and not just throw it all away. I like his ideas on trade, tax. Just about everything he does is spot on.

Trimble: The most important issues for me would be fairness, inclusiveness. It just means we need a voice. We need to be part of the decisions, not just [have] things handed down to us and we must obey.

Text and reporting by Nick Fouriezos; video by Kevin O’Dowd.

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