JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Once again this year, Jacksonville voters asked to select the most important issue facing their city from a list of choices have picked crime. And their next choice -- education -- wasn't even a close second.
It was the fifth year in a row that a University of North Florida Public Opinion Research Lab poll found crime was voters' biggest concern.
The poll, released Friday of more than 1,200 registered voters, found that 45% picked crime as the top issue. Education was chosen by 16% of those surveyed, followed by downtown redevelopment at 13%. All the other choices were in the single digits.
“Crime is and continues to be the No. 1 issue in Jacksonville, and while steps have been taken, clearly the community is still concerned,” said Dr. Michael Binder, UNF professor and director of the UNF PORL.
The survey also found that 46% strongly or somewhat approved of how Mayor Lenny Curry was handling his job, while Sheriff Mike Williams' approval rate was 45%. The City Council's approval rate was 34%, with 36% somewhat or strongly disapproving of the job it was doing and 20% saying they didn't know.
Duval County School Superintendent Diana Greene received a 40% approval rate, although 29% said they didn't know how she was doing.
The poll also showed a large 72% majority of registered Duval County voters oppose selling all or any part of JEA.
"While JEA leadership and City Hall have been noncommittal about selling, voters are very clear about their preference to keep the largest community-owned utility in Florida,” Binder said.
Asked whether they support or oppose an ordinance pending before the City Council that would change the law banning possession of 20 grams or less of marijuana from a criminal offense to a civil violation, an 84% majority said they support such a change.
“Aside from the use of body cameras by police, marijuana decriminalization has had the most support of any issue that we have polled since I have been in Jacksonville,” Binder said.
The survey was conducted by email between Monday and Wednesday. UNF said 59% of those surveyed were white, 28% were black, 5% were Hispanic and 8% were other. All were registered voters -- 41% were Democrats, 36% were Republicans and 23% had no party affiliation or supported other parties. Females accounted for 55% of the respondents.