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University of South Florida Professor Susan MacManus

USF-Nielsen Survey: Economy remains top issue facing Florida

TAMPA, Fla. -- Results of the 2015 USF-Nielsen Sunshine State Survey show Floridians are most concerned about the economy (22 percent), followed by K-12 education (10 percent), crime (7 percent), immigration (6 percent) and the environment/oil drilling/climate change (6 percent).

University of South Florida Professor Susan MacManus, who leads the USF-Nielsen Sunshine State Survey, said compared to survey results from previous years “concerns about the economy and jobs are clearly on the downside, reflecting an improving economy in our state.”

“At the same, when you have a better economic picture and growth starts occurring, that explains the slight uptick in issues like crime, immigration, and the environment--things that are affected by growth. So you clearly see an improving Florida, but you also see a rise in concern about growth-impacted areas of this state,” MacManus said.

This public policy survey which has questions written by MacManus’s media and politics class also addresses many hot-button issues facing the state.

Floridians overwhelmingly support law enforcement wearing body cameras (90 percent) and stricter water quality regulations (72 percent). Citizens also support stricter environmental regulations (66 percent), promoting more school choice (60 percent) and legalizing the medicinal use of marijuana (55 percent). The majority of Floridians is against students carrying concealed weapons on campuses (73 percent), and is against giving more rights to undocumented immigrants (57 percent). More than half of citizens are against collecting sales tax on Internet purchases (57 percent).

When asked whether the state was going in the right or wrong direction, Floridians are split on several issues including Common Core (34percent right, 33 percent wrong), off-shore drilling for oil and gas (42 percent wrong, 38 right), taking federal funding for Medicaid expansion (44percent right, 33 percent wrong), repealing Stand Your Ground (41 percent wrong, 30 percent right), allowing law enforcement to use drones (42 percent wrong, 31 percent right) and allowing more casino gambling (42 percent wrong, 30 percent right).

“This is really the heart of this year’s survey because we have selected 16 of the most volatile issues that are alive and well in Florida,” MacManus said. “When you really probe into some of the results, you’ll see there are some big regional differences in some of these key areas.”

MacManus said the survey asked citizens if they did not have an opinion on a certain issue. The two issues that had the most “no opinion” responses were Common Core (33 percent) and passing a law to give transgendered persons a choice in which restroom to use (31 percent).

“The USF-Nielsen Sunshine State Survey gives you a feel for what issues are really reaching people,” MacManus said. “For the policy makers and the civic and professional groups looking at this data, it will allow them to see where they need to do more education of the adult population in Florida.”

The survey also asked citizens to grade their leaders, both in the private and public sector. “Good” and “excellent” ratings are highest for city and county governments (both 41 percent), followed by state government (33 percent) and then lastly, the federal government (24 percent).

“This is a pattern you see nationally,” MacManus said. “People feel better about the leadership and government at the local level, than they do at either the state or federal level.”

Results of the USF-Nielsen Sunshine State Survey will be disseminated weekly through the month of October. MacManus said the next release will focus on the economy and transportation, and will be released on Oct. 12. Results are posted on the website.


Filed under:Arts and Sciences Government and International Affairs School of Public Affairs   
Author:Michele Dye