UNF poll finds bipartisan opposition to sale of JEA

Utility's CEO has highest disapproval rating of any Jacksonville leader

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Twice as many Duval County voters say they oppose selling JEA as say they support it, a poll from the University of North Florida's Public Opinion Research Lab found. The opposition is bipartisan, with significantly more Republicans against the idea than Democrats.

Those polled overwhelmingly oppose privatizing any part of the city-owned utility, with 60% against selling the electric portion of JEA, 61% against selling the water portion and 59% against selling the sewer portion. The survey found 73% believe that a publicly owned JEA benefits the city, while 16% did not believe there was a benefit for the city.

Regarding the recent "Invitation to Bid" process initiated by JEA that requires a minimum bid of $3 billion, UNF PORL asked  665 registered voters what minimum price they would accept in order to support selling JEA. A majority, 51%, did not know what minimum price they would be willing to sell JEA for. While only 14% are willing to sell at $3 billion, an additional 9% would be willing to sell up to $10 billion and another 5% would require more than $10 billion to sell. More than one in five people surveyed volunteered that they would not be willing to sell JEA at any price.

Ultimately, the sale of JEA must be put before the voters of Jacksonville prior to the sale being finalized. When asked when the election should be held to vote on the sale of JEA, 39% indicated a special election should be held as soon as the decision to sell has been made, while 55% said the vote should be held in the November 2020 general election.

"There is a strong base of opposition to the sale of JEA among voters of all parties here in Jacksonville," said Dr. Michael Binder, faculty director of the PORL. "However, without a concrete proposal in place yet it is difficult to infer how opinion might change when a proposal is finally put forward. There is so much uncertainty at this point around the price point of the sale, I could envision an active campaign offering $1,000 or more in rebates shifting opinion quite dramatically." 

When asked about job approval for JEA's current CEO Aaron Zahn, 33% approve and 47% disapprove, while 21% didn't know. Jason Gabriel, the city of Jacksonville's general counsel, has 27% job approval with 15% disapproving and 58% not knowing. 

"Of all the public figures polled in this survey, Aaron Zahn is the only one with a net negative job approval," Binder noted. "Clearly, the Invitation to Negotiate and potential sale spearheaded by Zahn has impacted the public's view of his job performance."

Do you support or oppose the city selling all of JEA?


What the public thinks of Jaguars' QBs, owner, coach

The same survey asked voters about the Jacksonville Jaguars. The survey was conducted between Oct. 31 and Nov. 4, from just before to just after the Jaguars game in London. Before Sunday's game, when asked whether or not Gardner Minshew, the Jaguars' rookie quarterback, should remain the starting quarterback when Nick Foles returns from injured reserve, 47% of respondents indicated that he should, while only 20% stated the Nick Foles should return to the position. However, after Sunday's game, support shifted with 36% wanting Foles to return and 35% preferring to keep Minshew as the starter.

Regarding team owner Shad Khan, 65% approve of the way that he is handling his job, with 10% disapproving. Similarly, 54% approve of the job that head coach Doug Marrone is doing, with 18% disapproving.

"Shad Khan's approval is the highest of all the people we polled on. Coming off the Jalen Ramsey trade his net positive is 55 points, 13 points higher than the last time we polled in 2017. Marrone's net positive is 36 points, nearly identical to 2017," Binder said. "Minshew's support dropped dramatically after the Houston game, and the recent announcement that Foles will be under center against the Colts puts this mini quarterback controversy to bed."

For details about the methodology of the survey, visit the PORL website.