Opinion poll: Floridians favor DeSantis and marijuana, oppose permitless carry and partisan school board races

by | Mar 9, 2023



  • A University of North Florida poll has found that Ron DeSantis is the top pick for the 2024 Republican presidential primary, with 52 percent of Floridians supporting him.
  • In a hypothetical head-to-head race between only DeSantis and former President Donald Trump, DeSantis would win with 59 percent of the Republican vote.
  • The poll also found that 70 percent of respondents support an amendment to the Florida State Constitution that would legalize small amounts of marijuana for personal use.
  • Respondents opposed bills that would allow Floridians to carry concealed weapons without a permit or license and that would prohibit Florida public colleges and universities from supporting campus activities promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion and critical race theory.
  • The poll also found that affordable housing is the top concern for Floridians, followed by the economy, jobs, and inflation, education, immigration, and gun policy.

A poll conducted by the University of North Florida’s Public Opinion Research Lab (PORL) shed light on various policy issues in Florida, including the 2024 election, proposed constitutional amendments, and bills filed in the Florida legislature.

When asked about their preferences for the 2024 Republican presidential primary, registered Republican voters overwhelmingly favored Gov. Ron DeSantis, who emerged as the clear frontrunner with 52 percent of respondents pledging their support. Former President Donald Trump garnered 27 percent of the electorate, while Nikki Haley trailed behind with just 4 percent.

In a head-to-head race between only DeSantis and Trump, 59 percent of registered Republicans said they would vote for DeSantis, while 28 percent said they would vote for Trump.

“It’s not too surprising to see DeSantis take the lead among Republicans in his home state of Florida,” said PORL faculty director Dr. Michael Binder. “But it is interesting to see how his lead jumps up from 25 to 31 points ahead, once you winnow the field. DeSantis is much better compared to Trump at consolidating votes if the field were to narrow.”

The poll also surveyed all respondents about the proposed amendment to the Florida State Constitution that would allow adults aged 21 and older to purchase and possess small amounts of marijuana for personal use. Results indicated that 70 percent of respondents support the measure, either strongly or somewhat, while 29% opposed the proposal.

The campaign, led by the Smart & Safe Florida political committee, currently totals 416,336 valid signatures, according to the Florida Division of Elections. The campaign collected enough signatures in February to trigger a state Supreme Court review of the initiative, accruing the necessary 294,000 valid signatures from Florida voters.

“Efforts to put recreational marijuana in front of voters in 2024 are in the beginning stages, but support for it is high across the political spectrum,” said Binder. “If it makes it onto the ballot next year, and that’s a big ‘if,’ it has a good chance of reaching the 60% supermajority needed to pass.”

On education reform, respondents were asked about House Bill 1, filed by Rep. Kaylee Tuck, which would make all K-12 students in Florida eligible to receive public funds for private school tuition and other school expenses regardless of financial need. Results showed that 53 percent of respondents support the bill, while 39 percent expressed opposition.

When asked about the proposed constitutional amendment that would require school board candidates to disclose party affiliation in their elections, 65 percent of respondents opposed the measure, while just 26 percent supported it. Rep. Spencer Roach, who introduced the resolution, argued on Wednesday that partisan school board races would provide greater transparency regarding candidates’ positions on issues.

Lawmakers critical of the measure, including Rep. Jennifer Harris, expressed concerns pertaining to the eligibility of No Party Affiliation candidates in primary races. Roach confirmed that unaffiliated candidates would be precluded from running in primary elections, but made the argument that the large constituents of NPA registered voters in the state would render the issue null.

Furthermore, respondents were asked about a recently filed bill that would prohibit Florida public colleges and universities from supporting campus activities or programs that promote diversity, equity, and inclusion, and critical race theory. Results showed that 61 percent of respondents opposed passage of the bill, while 35 percent supported it.

The poll also revealed strong opposition to a bill that would allow Floridians to carry a concealed weapon without a permit or license, with 77 percent of respondents opposed to the proposal, with just 22 percent expressing support.

A majority of respondents across party affiliations expressed opposition, with 93 percent of Democrats, 77 percent of Independents, and 62 percent of Republicans opposing the bill.

The poll also asked respondents to identify the most important problem facing Florida, with 25 percent indicating affordable housing as the top concern, followed by the economy, jobs, and inflation at 17 percent, education at 12 percent, immigration at 10 percent, and gun policy at 7 percent.

Per UNF, the poll was conducted from February 25 through March 7, utilizing a mixed mode design, incorporating both telephone and online surveys. The two sampling frames, consisting of phone numbers and email addresses, were sourced from the Florida voter file. Of the 1,452 registered voters who completed surveys, 453 were completed via telephone and 999 online.

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