USF releases fifth survey in continuing series on voter perspectives, including the possibility of legalized medical and recreational marijuana in Florida
TAMPA, Fla. (Oct. 7, 2014) – Results released Tuesday in the annual Sunshine State Survey administered by the University of South Florida School of Public Affairs and Nielsen provide insight into how Floridians feel about key issues facing the state, including medicinal marijuana, health care, felon voting rights, race relations and public transportation.
For the first time, the survey asked if the passage of the constitutional amendment permitting medicinal use of marijuana would soon lead to voters’ approval of recreational use of marijuana. 66 percent of the respondents believe it would.
The survey also asked how well the state is doing in providing health care for young children, seniors, as well as the mentally and physically disabled. A majority rated the state’s provision of health care to seniors and its assistance of the state’s mentally and physically disabled as just “fair” or “poor.” However, the state earned higher ratings for providing health care for young children with 45 percent giving the state an “excellent” or “good” rating.
Floridians also graded the state’s ability to improve race relations. The percent judging the state’s performance to be mediocre (“fair” or “poor”) jumped to 63 percent, up from 56 percent in 2012.
“This increase is likely due to the high profile George Zimmerman trial for the shooting of Trayvon Martin and the legislature’s debates on the Stand Your Ground law,” said Distinguished University of South Florida Professor Susan MacManus of the College of Arts and Sciences.
MacManus said the most critical (“poor”) ratings of the state’s role in improving race relations came from African-Americans and other minorities, the unemployed, the poorest respondents and 55-64 year olds.
The Sunshine State Survey also looked at various issues related to elections, one of them, new to the 2014 survey, being the restoration of felon voting rights. Unlike most states, Florida requires a convicted felon to request that his/her voting rights be reinstated by the state. Other states have “automatic restoration” of voting rights for convicted felons. 55 percent of respondents favored the status quo of “restoration upon request and state approval.”
MacManus said the young, minorities and the poor strongly favor automatic restoration of voting rights for convicted felons, in contrast to older, white and wealthier respondents.
The survey also examined the reasons why some Floridians do not register to vote. This is an important issue in Florida because the U.S. Census Bureau consistently has shown nearly a third of eligible Floridians are not registered to vote.
The most cited reason was “not eligible” to vote (28 percent), followed by “registered elsewhere and have not moved registration” (23 percent) and “never got around to it” (11 percent).
The Sunshine State Survey also gauged how informed voters are about proposed constitutional amendments. Historically, studies have shown that a number of voters skip the proposed constitutional amendments because they feel uninformed to vote on the proposals. Only 25 percent feel they have enough information about the proposed amendments, nine percent fewer than those surveyed in 2012.
“This is a call to action for the state media,” MacManus said. “They play an important role in getting this information out and making sure the voters are informed about the pros and cons about each amendment on the ballot.”
With a number of transportation issues on the ballot this November, the Sunshine State Survey for the first time asked respondents to rate the state’s provision of public transportation and the adequacy of transportation infrastructure. A majority (54 percent) of the respondents gave a positive (“excellent” or “good”) rating to the job the state does in providing adequate roads and bridges, but just 35 percent gave such high marks to its provision of public transportation.
Nearly six times as many respondents gave the state “poor” ratings (29 percent) for its provision of public transportation than gave it an “excellent” rating (five percent), MacManus said.
The Data Release 5 Report, including crosstabs, can be found at sunshinestatesurvey.org/results.
MacManus will hold another teleconference for members of the media on Tuesday, Oct. 14 at 10 a.m. to release the sixth and final installment of survey results. Next week’s survey will focus on Floridian’s views on key issues: right direction or wrong direction and how to pay for government services. A media advisory with more information will be sent on Monday, Oct. 13.
The University of South Florida is a high-impact, global research university dedicated to student success. USF is a Top 50 research university among both public and private institutions nationwide in total research expenditures, according to the National Science Foundation. Serving nearly 48,000 students, the USF System has an annual budget of $1.5 billion and an annual economic impact of $4.4 billion. USF is a member of the American Athletic Conference.