JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A new poll of registered voters in Florida by the Public Opinion Research Laboratory at the University of North Florida found that 46 percent strongly or somewhat approve of how Gov. Rick Scott is handling his job, while 40 percent strongly or somewhat disapprove and 14 percent were uncertain.
There are large partisan differences in Florida among registered Republicans; the approval for Scott is 74 percent, compared to 24 percent for Democrats and 39 percent for no party affiliation (NPA). Overall, 39 percent of Florida registered voters approve of the way the state legislature is handling its job; 40 percent disapprove and 21 percent don’t know.
“In a little bit of a surprise, the Florida legislature is almost break-even with their approval, a very positive number for them compared to most polling on Congress,” said Dr. Michael Binder, faculty director of the UNF Public Opinion Research Laboratory.
The majority of Florida registered voters don’t want concealed handguns on college or university campuses, with 62 percent who oppose the proposed legislation, 48 percent strongly oppose, and only 34 percent in support.
“If the legislature is paying attention to public opinion, this signals that House Bill 6005 might not make it to the governor’s desk for the second time in two years,” Binder said.
Additionally, the majority of Florida registered voters (53 percent) also oppose allowing licensed individuals to openly carry a handgun in the state, except in police stations, prisons, courthouses, schools, athletic events and establishments that dispense alcohol. “In what could be another signal to Tallahassee about Senate Bill 140, voters aren’t supportive of bringing open carry laws to Florida,” Binder noted. “While Floridians might not be open to expanding gun laws, they don’t support prohibiting the sale of assault weapons, which could signal that House Bill 167 isn’t going to get passed either.”
Only 13 percent of Florida registered voters support a reduction in the tax businesses pay on corporate leases by an estimated $454 million, whereas 40 percent think the tax shouldn’t be reduced, and the money should be dedicated to public universities. Thirty-three percent think the tax shouldn’t be reduced, and the money should be dedicated to improving infrastructure.
In what is shaping up to be a contentious session between the governor and the legislature, this survey suggests that the public isn’t on board with Scott’s plan to cut the business-lease taxes, according to Binder. He suggests these findings could give Senate President Joe Negron some added support in his efforts to secure additional funding for state universities in Florida.
Florida registered voters were asked about other policy issues on the table when the legislative session starts next week. When asked about the “tampon sales tax exemption” (Senate Bill 176), 59 percent said they support the policy and 28 percent oppose.
For the prohibition of employment discrimination based on gender identity, the majority -- 50 percent -- of Florida registered voters are in overall support of the policy, while 45 percent oppose it.
“Jacksonville recently passed the human rights ordinance, but without overwhelming support from the voters, it’s unlikely that House Bill 319 and Senate Bill 410 are going to make it to Scott’s desk this spring,” said Binder.
On another note, support for out-of-school suspension for elementary school students is only 40 percent, while opposition is at 49 percent. “This should bolster support in the legislature for Senate Bill 438 on out-of-school suspension and encourage legislators to take further measures to limit the use of these practices in schools,” said Dr. Angela Mann, UNF assistant professor of psychology. “Florida currently leads the country in the use of exclusionary discipline practices, which increases student risk for involvement in the juvenile justice system.”
Florida registered voters think that education (20 percent), health care (15 percent) and crime (13 percent) are the most important problems facing Florida today. Among Florida registered voters, 10 percent think the environment is the most important problem facing the state today. However, when asked to what extent Florida’s government is spending the right amount of resources on protecting the environment, a scant 4 percent think Florida should be spending less resources on protecting the environment. Twenty-seven percent think the state is spending about the right amount of resources protecting the environment, while the majority (55 percent) think the state should be spending more resources on protecting the environment.
“Despite the fact that Floridians don’t consider environmental issues to be among the most important problems facing the state, a clear majority want the government to allocate more resources to protecting our natural environment,” said Dr. Josh Gellers, UNF assistant professor of political science.
For a breakdown of the results, visit unf.edu/coas/porl.
The Florida statewide poll was conducted Monday, Feb. 13, through Sunday, Feb. 26, by live callers via the telephone, and calls were made from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. daily. Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish by 247 UNF undergraduate students. Overall, there were 973 completed surveys of Florida registered voters, 18 years of age or older.
The margin of error is +/- 3.14 percentage points. The breakdown of completed responses on a landline phone to a cell phone was 27 to 73 percent. The sample had quota for geography based on Florida media markets. The total sample was weighted by partisan registration, gender, race and age to match the active registered voters in Florida.