UNF poll finds voters oppose Florida abortion bill, support sports gambling

Economy, jobs and unemployment are the top concerns in survey

Could Florida be the next state to legalize marijuana in 2022?

A new survey of Florida voters reveals their top priorities for the state and where they stand on key cultural and economic issues.

More than 600 registered votes said the economy was the number one issue that Florida’s lawmakers should be concerned with. They also are not happy with the new abortion bill passed in the state House of Representatives last week. The acceptance of legal sports gambling is growing, and a majority said they favored the legalization of marijuana for personal use.

Florida’s House of Representatives passed a bill last week banning abortions after fifteen weeks of pregnancy, with narrow exceptions to protect the life of the mother and for fetal abnormalities. Respondents were asked whether they support or oppose this bill being passed into law, and the sample was split between two different ways of framing the question. Half of respondents were asked whether they support or oppose the bill effectively banning abortions after fifteen weeks. The other half received the same question but with the added information that it does not include exceptions for rape or incest. In both samples, the majority of respondents (57%) opposed the bill either strongly or somewhat, with 34% supporting either somewhat or strongly. Opposition was five percentage points stronger among those respondents who received the full question, at 60%, compared to 55% who received the shorter version.

“Opposition to the abortion ban was five points higher with the ‘no exceptions’ version, but the fact that the responses weren’t terribly different speaks to the highly partisan and emotional nature of the abortion debate,” commented Dr. Michael Binder, PORL faculty director and UNF professor of political science. “People tend to know where they stand on the issue and question wording doesn’t change very many peoples’ minds.”

Respondents were asked about another recently passed bill in the Florida State Senate that would prohibit school districts from encouraging discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in grades Kindergarten through 5, or in a way that is deemed age or developmentally inappropriate. The total sample showed overall opposition to the passage of the bill, with 49% opposing and 40% supporting either somewhat or strongly.

“Support for the so-called ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill is only about 40%, despite it being passed in the State Senate last week,” said Binder. “When we break it down by party registration, we see 54% of Republicans supporting the bill, which is more in line with Florida’s Republican controlled legislature.”

In addition, respondents were asked about a proposed amendment to the Florida State Constitution that would require school board candidates to run in partisan elections. Currently, district school board elections in Florida are nonpartisan, meaning candidates are not associated with a political party. Forty-nine percent of respondents indicated they oppose the passage of this amendment either strongly or somewhat, with 32% supporting. Sixteen percent of respondents said they don’t know.

“Often very little information is available for down ballot candidates—school board races in particular—and simply adding a party identifier will increase the partisan voting in those races,” Binder commented. “The amendment has pretty weak support among survey respondents at just over 30%, which seems to indicate Florida voters want to keep politics out of the education system.”

In another split-sample question, respondents were asked whether they support or oppose legalizing sports and event betting for individuals age 21 or over at professional sports venues or online betting platforms. Half of the total sample received just this wording, while the other half were asked their support if tax revenue would go toward education in Florida. In the first version, without the education stipulation, 50% of respondents said they support sports betting either somewhat or strongly, with 35% opposing. When the education language was added, support jumped 10 percentage points to 60%, with just 28% opposing.

“The stark differences in the two versions of the question shows just how important wording can be when it comes to public opinion,” Binder noted. “If people see a benefit for the state, such as increased funding for education, they’re more likely to support a variety of policies. One of the big reasons lotteries were legalized at the state level in the first place was that a large chunk of those revenues went toward education and online gambling supporters are simply following in those footsteps.”

Respondents were also asked whether they support or oppose allowing adults in Florida to legally possess small amounts of marijuana for recreational use. The overwhelming majority (76%) said they support the idea either somewhat or strongly, with just 20% opposing. Support for recreational marijuana has increased by 12 percentage points since November of 2019, when 64% of respondents said they support it strongly or somewhat.

“Previous polls we conducted have shown support in the mid-60s for marijuana legalization but Floridians are now highly supportive of recreational marijuana,” noted Binder.

Respondents were also asked if they believe that politicians and elected officials should be required to publicly disclose their COVID-19 vaccination status, to which 58% said no, 38% said yes, and 3% said they don’t know.

“There isn’t much support for mandatory disclosure of vaccination status, which isn’t too shocking considering the lack of statewide COVID restrictions,” commented Binder.

In addition, survey respondents were asked what they think is the most important problem facing Florida. The most frequent response was the economy, jobs and unemployment, with 21% of respondents indicating it is the most important problem. This was followed by immigration with 14%, education with 12%, and COVID-19 with 11%. Respondents were also given the opportunity to write in “other” issues, a few of which were then recoded into additional categories. Among these issues were politics and politicians with 4%, and housing costs with 2%.

“Folks seem to be more worried about jobs and unemployment than the last time we asked this question, at just 9% in February of 2020,” Binder noted. “Back then the most important issue was healthcare, which has dropped seventh place this year. Affordable housing and politics seem to be emerging as two issue areas of concern.”