JACKSONVILLE,Fla. – Early voting begins in less than a week, and according to a new University of North Florida poll, 22% of registered voters still do not know who they will vote for in Jacksonville’s mayoral election.
More Republicans (31%) and Independents (24%) are undecided than Democrats (13%).
Young adults ages 18 to 24 are the most undecided of age group at 31%.
Unless a candidate picks up a disproportionate amount of the undecided vote, it appears no single candidate will have the simple majority needed to win the race outright.
In that case, the two top vote-getters would face off in the May general election.
The poll does list candidate preference, but, for the sake of transparency, News4JAX is not covering the so-called “horse race.” Research has shown, focusing on who is in the lead and who is behind, instead of policy issues, can actually harm voters. It discourages people from turning out when their candidate has a very high chance of winning or losing.
Polls are a just snapshot of a small sample group, 531 people in this case.
Jacksonville’s most important issue
Crime is once again, the most important problem facing Jacksonville, according to the poll. It has consistently held the top spot for years.
37% of people polled say crime is the River City’s most important issue.
There is a three-way tie for the number two spot, between education, economy and housing costs.
Race relations, improving downtown and improving transportation were also concerns but lower on the list.
It is not just a concern for any one group. Crime ranked high across political party, sex, race and education.
Nationwide, the number of homicides last year was 4% lower than 2021, but in Jacksonville, homicides were up nearly 27%.
UNF’s poll doesn’t separate respondents by where they live, but News4JAX records show violent crime is more common depending on where you live.
When we dug into the numbers, our records showed that 121 of the homicides in Jacksonville in 2022 were reported in areas west of the St. Johns River. That’s 74% of all homicides last year.
On top of that, a third of the city’s homicides took place in just three ZIP codes 32206, 32209 and 32210.
The 32209 ZIP code, which includes Moncrief and Durkeeville, has long been the most violent in the city, with 20 homicides reported there last year, the most of any one zone.
Crime is seen as less of an issue for younger adults 18 to 24, according to the poll. Just 17%, 20% lower than the total, saw crime as an issue. People in that age group listed the economy and housing costs as more important issues for Jacksonville.
We have already asked each candidate to outline how they would address crime, affordable housing and infrastructure, and you can read it all in our voter’s guide.
Removal of Confederate monuments
A slim majority of Jacksonville voters, 51%, said they oppose the removal of confederate monuments from public spaces.
By contrast, 45% strongly, or somewhat support their removal.
Jacksonville’s next mayor will be sworn in three years after its current mayor, Lenny Curry, said all Confederate monuments in Jacksonville need to come down.
So far, only part of one has been removed.
With no current plan to do anything with the monuments, this will likely be an issue for the next city council to address.
Jacksonville to host RNC?
UNF also asked voters how they feel about Jacksonville hosting the Republican National Convention in 2028.
58% of voters said they support hosting the event here, and 35% were opposed.
While support was higher among registered Republicans at 87%, 28% of registered Democrats were also on board.
We first reported in January that a team had visited Jacksonville to get some preliminary information, but the RNC hasn’t announced anything since.
The committee does not typically announce a location this early, but it made a change to its rules last summer allowing it to select a convention city now.
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, will host the RNC next year.
Jacksonville was eyed as an RNC host in 2020 after it pulled out of Charlotte, North Carolina.
At the time, 32% supported hosting the convention, while 58% were opposed. The majority felt Jacksonville was rushing too quickly into opening.
More Jacksonville voters are coming around to the idea of sharing the cost of renovating the TIAA Bank field with the Jaguars, according to the poll.
Most are still opposed to the concept, but the margin is shrinking.
61% say they somewhat or strongly oppose sharing the cost with the Jaguars, and 37% support using up to $750 million to help renovate TIAA Bank Field, that’s compared to the most recent poll from August, where 80% were opposed and 19% expressed support.
A lot has happened since August. In his first season as head coach, Doug Pederson took the team from a last-place AFC south finish to division champions.
UNF looked at job approvals for a number of local community leaders. They included Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence. He earned the highest approval rating of them all, with 86% saying they approve of the job he’s doing. Pederson and Jaguars owner Shad Khan also fared well, with 84% and 71% approval, respectively.
By contrast, 52% of respondents approve of the way Mayor Lenny Curry is handling his job, and 45% approve of the Jacksonville City Council.
UNF also asked how many people participated in the time-honored tradition of shouting “DUUUVAL.”
We don’t know if the people answering were shy or embarrassed, but 50% said no, and 48% owned up to their team spirit and said yes.
Older adults were more likely to say no, while a whopping 92% of people 18 to 24 proudly shouted “DUUUVAL.”