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USF-Nielsen Survey: Floridians still feeling financial stress, find government spending "relatively wasteful"

TAMPA, Fla. (Oct. 14, 2015) -- More than 70 percent of Floridian households are experiencing some financial stress, indicating Floridians are not convinced that the Great Recession is over, according to the USF-Nielsen Sunshine State Survey.

On Tuesday, University of South Florida Professor Susan MacManus discussed thesurvey's latest findings that show Floridians’ stance on several important issues facing the state, including the economy, economic development, transportation, and state and local finances.

"What this portion of the survey shows is that Floridians are still stressed economically,'' MacManus said. "They are very much still looking somewhat judgmentally, and in a negative fashion, toward state and local leadership. And they are hopeful for attention to transportation and infrastructure."

The USF-Nielsen Sunshine State Survey asked respondents to identify the single biggest threat to Florida’s economy. While the answers were diverse, MacManus said nearly half identified loss of jobs, government waste and inefficiency, and undocumented residents and workers as the biggest threats to the economy.

Floridians are divided on the single best way for the state to attract new economic development. More than two-thirds (68 percent) see either improving the state's infrastructure, especially transportation (23 percent), offering tax breaks or cash payments tied to job creation promises (23 percent) or investing more in education and training (22 percent) as the single best way to spark economic development.

"The public in Florida comes down strongly with the conclusion that these tactics are indeed job creators and tax enhancers," MacManus said. "In fact, 60 percent see these incentives for businesses to encourage them to expand or relocate as job creators, rather than corporate welfare, which is cited by just 31 percent."

"The key here is 'tied to job creation promises,' not just tax breaks, but tax breaks tied to job creation promises," MacManus said.

Opinions about whether the state should focus on keeping existing businesses and jobs or attracting new businesses and jobs are almost evenly divided. Forty-five percent favor giving a higher priority to keeping existing businesses and 43 percent prefer more efforts to attract new businesses and jobs into the state.

In terms of other potential revenue sources for the state, Floridians have different viewpoints about casino gambling.

"We see a very divided electorate," MacManus said. "Thirty-four percent favor expansion to Nevada-style casinos but 33 percent say no and want it to remain at Seminole Tribe facilities, and 20 percent want no gambling at all. Another 13 percent did not express an opinion."

Transportation is a high-ranking discussion point in many communities around Florida, specifically ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft. The survey asked if ride-sharing companies should have liability insurance, have regulated prices and be licensed like taxis.

"A majority weighs in affirmatively on each of these issues, even though there is more of a split among those who think there should be regulated prices," MacManus said.

While a majority (59 percent) say their state taxes are "about right" relative to the overall quality of state services provided and 55 percent feel the same toward local taxes, Floridians overall find state and local spending to be "relatively wasteful."

"The reason why most people find government wasteful at the moment is so many still feel stressed in their own personal household finances," MacManus said. "It's long been a pattern in government finance that when people feel anxiety in their own personal finances and they’re having to make tough choices, people regard anything that involves any discussion of taxes or services by a government as very wasteful because there’s always something in the news about local governments wanting to increase sales taxes for this or wanting to spend more on that."

The survey also asked respondents to identify the state’s least fair revenue source. MacManus said by far, the least fair revenue source cited is the communications services tax (31 percent), followed by property taxes (18 percent), road tolls (13 percent) and the gas tax (9 percent).

"What this survey shows is that virtually every key issue at the moment is very much on the minds of Floridians," MacManus said.

For the complete results of this week's data release, visit the USF-Nielsen Sunshine State Survey website.

The next data release will be Oct. 19 and will focus on Florida’s judicial system.

The USF-Nielsen Sunshine State Survey is the most anticipated annual survey of Floridians on a wide range of issues affecting the state of Florida and serves as our state leaders’ report card. Conducted by the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of South Florida and Nielsen, this survey has become a critical source of citizen opinions on key issues facing this rapidly changing state--the nation's third largest. The series of questions asked annually since 2006 provides leaders and academics in the public, private and nonprofit sectors with much-needed trend line data, while questions on newly-emerging issues give leaders an invaluable baseline look at where a wide cross-section of our state's residents stand on them.


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