JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A new poll from the University of North Florida’s Public Opinion Research Lab asked registered voters across Florida about a range of policy issues, including proposed constitutional amendments and bills that have been filed or proposed ahead of the 2023 session of the Florida Legislature.
Registered Republicans were asked about their preferences in the 2024 Republican presidential primary. When given a list of 10 possible candidates, 52% of respondents indicated a vote for Ron DeSantis, followed by 27% for Donald Trump. Nikki Haley came in a very distant third with 4%, followed by Liz Cheney with 3% and Mike Pence with 2%. The remaining candidates each received less than 1%. Only 8% of respondents said they do not know or refused to answer.
When asked to choose between DeSantis and Trump in a head-to-head race, 59% of registered Republicans said they would vote for DeSantis, 28% said they would vote for Trump, and 14% did not know or refused.
“It’s not that surprising to see DeSantis take the lead among Republicans in his home state of Florida,” said Dr. Michael Binder, PORL faculty director and professor of political science. “But it’s interesting to see how his lead jumps from 25 to 31 points ahead when you win the field from 10 to two. DeSantis is much better compared to Trump at consolidating votes if the field were to narrow.”
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All respondents were asked whether they support or oppose a proposed amendment to the Florida State Constitution that would allow Florida adults age 21 and older to purchase and possess small amounts of marijuana for personal use. Fully 70% of those questioned said they support the measure, either strongly or somewhat, while 29% said they are strongly or somewhat opposed. Previous PORL statewide polls show similarly high support, with 76% in spring 2022 and 64% in November 2019.
“Efforts to put recreational marijuana before voters in 2024 are in their infancy, but support for it is high across the political spectrum,” Binder said. “If it gets on the ballot next year, and it’s a big ‘if,’ it has a good chance of reaching the 60% supermajority needed to pass.”
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The survey included some questions about proposed reforms to Florida’s education system, including K-12 and higher education. Respondents were asked whether they support or oppose the recently filed HB1 which, among other changes, would make all K-12 students in Florida eligible to receive public funds to use for private school tuition and other school expenses, regardless of financial need. They were told that some estimates put the additional cost of the expansion at $2.5 billion. In response, 53% said they support the bill, either somewhat or strongly, and 39% expressed opposition. Only 8% said they don’t know or refused.
When asked whether they support or oppose the proposed constitutional amendment that would require school board candidates to disclose party affiliation in elections, a 65% majority of respondents said they strongly or somewhat oppose it, while only 26% said they support the measure and 9 %. don’t know or refused to answer.
Regarding higher education, respondents were also asked about a recently filed bill that, among other changes to the State University System, would prohibit public colleges and universities in Florida from supporting campus activities or programs that promote diversity, equity, inclusion, and critical race theory. Again, a majority of 61% of respondents said they oppose passage of the bill, while 35% supported and 4% did not or refused. Opposition was greatest among registered Democrats and independents, with 79% and 68% respectively. Support among registered Republicans is 56% with 38% indicating opposition to the bill.
“Despite high support among Republicans, many voters we spoke to are less than thrilled about some of DeSantis’ latest proposals in his war on ‘woke’ culture, this time targeting Florida’s public colleges and universities with HB999 and SB266,” said Binding. “A notable portion of Republicans do not like the restrictions, but the 56% in support reflects the likely outcome in Florida’s Republican-controlled legislature.”
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Another recent bill that would allow Floridians to carry a concealed weapon without a permit or license received strong opposition with 77% saying they oppose the bill strongly or somewhat and only 22% in support. The majority of respondents were opposed across party affiliations, with 93% of Democrats opposed, 77% among independents, and 62% among Republicans.
“Not only is there bipartisan opposition to this ‘constitutional sustainability’ bill, but people seem to feel passionately about it, with majorities saying they strongly oppose the bill,” commented Binder. “Even among Republicans, most are opposed to carrying guns without a permit.”
Respondents were also asked what they believe is the most important issue facing Florida, to which 25% said affordable housing. The next highest response is the economy, jobs and inflation at 17%, followed by education at 12%, immigration at 10% and gun policy at 7%.
“Housing affordability has been an issue of increasing concern to Floridians, peaking this year at 25% from just 2% last spring,” Binder said. “Among the main topics in the ‘something else’ write-in category are politicians and divisive politics at about 6%, and property insurance also has a notable presence.