Poll: Florida voters support legalized gambling, cite economy and immigration as most pressing issue

by | Feb 22, 2022


 

A new public opinion research poll published Tuesday morning by the University of North Florida Public Opinion Research Lab (PORL) offered a unique insight as to where Florida voters sit on some of the most pressing topics in the Capitol.

The survey, comprised of 685 likely Florida voters, serves as a barometer of public opinion in the lead-up to the November midterm elections, where several of the asked topics may appear on ballots for voter discretion. The responses, however, do not factor in party affiliation.

In a split-sample question, respondents were asked whether they support or oppose legalizing sports and event betting for individuals age 21 or over at professional sports venues or online betting platforms. Half of the total sample received just this wording, while the other half were asked their support if tax revenue would go toward education in Florida. In the first version, without the education stipulation, 50 percent of respondents said they support sports betting either somewhat or strongly, with 35 percent opposing. When the education language was added, support jumped 10 percentage points to 60 percent, with just 28 percent opposing.

“The stark differences in the two versions of the question show just how important wording can be when it comes to public opinion,” noted Dr. Michael Binder, PORL faculty director and UNF professor of political science. “If people see a benefit for the state, such as increased funding for education, they’re more likely to support a variety of policies. One of the big reasons lotteries were legalized at the state level in the first place was that a large chunk of those revenues went toward education and online gambling supporters are simply following in those footsteps.”

Respondents were additionally asked about a proposed amendment to the Florida State Constitution that would require school board candidates to run in partisan elections. Currently, district school board elections in Florida are nonpartisan. 49 percent of respondents indicated they oppose the passage of this amendment either strongly or somewhat, with 32 percent supporting. Sixteen percent of respondents remain undecided on the matter.

“Often very little information is available for down-ballot candidates—school board races in particular—and simply adding a party identifier will increase the partisan voting in those races,” Binder commented. “The amendment has pretty weak support among survey respondents at just over 30 percent, which seems to indicate Florida voters want to keep politics out of the education system.”

Survey respondents were asked what they think is the most important problem facing Florida. The most frequent response was the economy, jobs, and unemployment, with 21 percent of respondents indicating it is the most important problem. This was followed by immigration with 14 percent, education with 12 percent, and COVID-19 with 11 percent. Respondents were also given the opportunity to write in “other” issues, a few of which were then recoded into additional categories. Among these issues were politics and politicians with 4 percent, and housing costs with 2 percent.

“Folks seem to be more worried about jobs and unemployment than the last time we asked this question, at just 9% in February of 2020,” Binder stated. “Back then the most important issue was healthcare, which has dropped seventh place this year. Affordable housing and politics seem to be emerging as two issue areas of concern.”

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