UNF Poll: Duval County voters want investment in schools, supervision for JEA

A new poll by The Public Opinion Research Lab (PORL) at the University of North Florida found that a large majority of likely voters plan to vote in favor of two separate referendums on the 2020 ballot: One having to do with JEA and the other with Duval County Public Schools.

The poll, Jax Speaks Out, looks at measures on the 2020 ballot, COVID-19, and social issues like police brutality and health care.

Two referendums finding favor with voters are a measure to allow City Council to appoint and remove JEA Board Members and a measure to implement the half-cent sales tax to fix aging schools in Duval County.

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In a video released by Duval County Public Schools, the district said its schools are the oldest in the state and almost every school needs repairs or upgrades, pointing to crumbling walls, leaks and failing air conditioners.

Voters seem to agree. UNF said 68% of respondents it surveyed said they plan to vote in favor of the tax.

DCPS said, if approved, the cost of the referendum would average out to $6 per month for a family of four with an income of $56,000.

Another local referendum on the ballot proposes giving power to Jacksonville City Council to remove and appoint JEA board members. A majority, 76% of respondents, said they will vote yes, while 20% said no.

“Jacksonville is very supportive of investing in their public schools, something we have consistently seen in our polling over the years,” said Dr. Michael Binder, PORL faculty director and associate professor of political science. “Regarding the JEA referendum, it is not surprising voters want do diversify oversight of the JEA board after the last year that JEA has had.”

Binder was referring to the botched attempt to sell JEA, which has prompted city and federal investigations into the city-owned utility.

Deegan vs. Rutherford

Registered likely voters in Congressional District 4 were also asked about their vote choice in the upcoming race for U.S. House Representative between incumbent John Rutherford (R) and Donna Deegan (D).

Of the respondents who are registered in in the district, 57% indicated a vote for Rutherford, and 38% said they would vote for Deegan.

Three percent said they would vote for someone else, and 2% indicated that, given these choices, they would not vote.

“Despite Deegan’s extensive non-profit work and name recognition in Duval, the Republican registration advantage in that district appears to be too much to overcome for the political newcomer and the former sheriff is poised to win a third term,” Binder said.

Trust in JSO

Respondents were also asked their opinions regarding the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and race relations in Jacksonville.

A majority of Duval voters -- 65% -- believe that JSO can be trusted to do the right thing, either all or most of the time, while 35% said they can be trusted only sometimes, or not often at all. This is a shift from June’s responses, which showed 54% of respondents saying JSO can be trusted, versus 46% saying they cannot.

The Sheriff’s Office issued the following statement about the poll results:

“We are so pleased to see the level of engaged voters that expressed their voices in the most recent UNF poll. The ratings regarding JSO echo what we have been working on since day one -- building stronger ties with our community. We are no means out of the woods and stand committed to making every neighborhood safer every day.”

The survey was comprised of a sample of 863 registered likely voters in Congressional District 4, and 545 registered likely voters in Duval County. The margin of error is 3.3%.

The survey was administered through email via Qualtrics, an online survey platform.

You can read the complete poll and its findings here.

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