UNF poll finds Jacksonville City Council candidates Howland, Polson in dead heat

Additionally, polls suggests Jacksonville voters want an independent panel to draw district maps

Nick Howland and Tracye Polson

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A new poll released Thursday by the Public Opinion Research Lab at the University of North Florida reveals new data from registered voters, and the results show the two candidates for the City Council At Large Group 3 seat neck-and-neck in the race.

Specifically, Tracye Polson received 50.3% of likely voters’ support, compared to Nick Howland, who received 49.7%.

“It looks like we are dealing with another impossibly tight race for City Council,” Dr. Michael Binder, PORL faculty director and UNF professor of political science, said in a prepared statement. “Voter turnout is going to be the deciding factor here and predicting that can be tricky—especially in a special election runoff. People with a history of voting in these types of elections lean more toward Howland, so Polson will need to make up for that with new voters in the coming days.”

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Respondents were also asked about the Jacksonville mayoral and sheriff’s races, and potential candidates were included on the list of responses if they’ve publicly announced running or expressed interest in running.

In the race for the mayor’s office, the poll found Democrat Donna Deegan had the greatest support, with 41% of respondents saying they would vote for her. Daniel Davis had 20% of the vote, while another 20% went to someone else.

When asked about the sheriff’s race, Democrat Lakesha Burton got 39% of voters’ support, followed by Republican T.K. Waters, who got 27%. Matthew Nemeth, also a Republican, got 15%.

“Since Matt Carlucci dropped out of the mayor’s race, what was previously an even split has turned into a wide lead for Donna Deegan,” Binder added in the news release. “The sheriff’s race is a little bit closer but folks are clearly excited about Lakesha Burton, the first Black woman to run for Jacksonville Sheriff. These are both highly partisan races and it should be noted that this survey is of registered voters—older voters and Republicans are much more likely to turn out in these elections.”

Another topic -- the drawing of City Council district maps. Respondents were asked whether they believe that the council’s elected representatives should draw new maps or that maps should be drawn by an independent panel made up of an equal number of Republicans or Democrats.

The majority -- 85% -- chose the independent panel. The remaining 15% said City Council.

In the poll, Mayor Lenny Curry was given an approval rating of 47% by voters, with 45% disapproving and 7% saying they don’t know. Sheriff Mike Williams got a 51% approval rating, 36% disapproval and 13% who don’t know.

Jacksonville City Council had just 31% saying they approve either somewhat are strongly. Of the voters, 57% day they disapprove and 12% don’t know.

The survey asked voters about curbside recycling pickup in Duval County before it was announced that it would be returning in April. The majority -- 83% -- stated it was important, and 63% said it was very important.

As is typical of the poll, respondents were asked what they believe the most important problem is facing Jacksonville. The most common response was crime (35%) followed by improving downtown (16%) and improving transportation and infrastructure (10%). COVID-19 received just 3% of the vote, compared to 22% in June 2020.

Here is a look at the full news release: