JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – For the first time since 2015, a poll taken by the University of North Florida’s Public Opinion Research Lab found a issue a more important concern to registered Jacksonville voters than crime.
Of those who took the poll that was released Wednesday, 22% said COVID-19 was the most important problem facing Jacksonville. Crime was the second most important problem, with 19%, followed by race relations, which had 16%.
“Obviously as the global pandemic drags on, and Jacksonville is beginning to get national attention due to increases in positive tests, voters are rightly concerned,” UNF professor Dr. Michael Binder said in a news release that accompanied the poll results.
In light of the Republican National Convention coming to Jacksonville, respondents were asked whether they approved or disapproved of the decision. Of those polled, 58% said they either strongly or somewhat oppose the city hosting the RNC, while 42% supported the decision either somewhat or strongly.
When it comes to the RNC and COVID-19, respondents were asked how concerned they were about COVID-19 transmission if a large number of people gathered in Jacksonville during the convention. Of the results, 71% were very or somewhat concerned and 30% were not very or not at all concerned.
Looking further at the RNC, 66% of those polled agree that the convention could generate up to $100 million for the city’s economy. Of the respondents, 56% disagree the RNC will bring positive media attention to the River City.
“National nominating conventions are polarizing events, and unsurprisingly the levels of support for Jacksonville hosting the RNC varies dramatically by partisanship,” Binder said. “Under the backdrop of a global pandemic that appears to have come more fervently to Florida, the opposition to this event being hosted locally seems much more concerning.”
Digging deeper into the pandemic, the vast majority of respondents -- 79% -- said they were somewhat or very concerned about the pandemic in general, while 67% said they were very or somewhat concerned about contracting the virus. The poll showed more were concerned about the long-term impact of the virus on the economy (85%) compared to personal finances (65%).
“Even though levels of concern have abated somewhat since our last poll in April, COVID-19 worries remain extremely high in Jacksonville,” Binder said. “More people know somebody that has contracted the virus and the economy is not turning around as quickly as people might have hoped two months ago.”
The majority of respondents -- 56% -- said they believe Jacksonville is moving too quickly in easing restrictions and reopening businesses.
Notably, the poll found the issue of race relations was the third most important concern of Jacksonville voters. Respondents were asked about the recent demonstrations following the death of George Floyd.
Of those polled, 82% said they strongly or somewhat support non-violent protests in Jacksonville.
When asked if they thought police in Jacksonville could be trusted to do the right thing, 8% said all the time, 46% said most of the time, 29% said only some of the time, and 17% said not very often at all. A majority of respondents (59%) think that the deaths of black people during encounters with police in Jacksonville are signs of a broader problem of systemic racism, as opposed to isolated incidents (41%).
“Jacksonville is not immune to the wave of national attention focused on racial inequality, and overwhelming majorities locally are supportive of the movement to alleviate these disparities,” Binder said.
When it comes to the 2020 presidential election, 48% of voters said they would vote for Joe Biden while 41% chose Donald Trump. A total of 5% said they wouldn’t vote.