USF survey reflects views of anxiety, optimism toward Florida economy

Floridians are worrying less about unemployment than in previous years, according to the 2014 Sunshine State Survey report. Conducted by the USF College of Arts and Sciences and Nielsen Holdings, the latest weekly release took an in-depth look at perceived economic issues. 

Though unemployment is still the most cited threat to Florida’s economy, the percentage of respondents who thought Florida has poor job creation dropped from 51 percent in 2012 to 27 percent in 2014. 

Survey Director Susan MacManus, a USF political science professor, said respondents nonetheless saw room for improvement, including areas of the economy other than unemployment. 

“Floridians acknowledge that the economy is improving a bit,” she said. “But the key finding is that there are a lot of other signs of anxiety.”

The second biggest named threat to the economy is government waste and inefficiency, at 14 percent. Close behind, at 12 percent, is undocumented workers/residents. 

Concern over the economic impact of climate change doubled from 3 percent in 2012 to 6 percent in 2014. MacManus said this was likely due to increased environmental activism in Florida. 

When asked the best path to economic expansion, 61 percent of respondents said the state offering incentives for businesses to move to Florida was a job creation tool rather than corporate welfare. 

Regarding the potential impact raising the minimum wage would have on the economy, Floridians were evenly divided on whether it would hurt businesses. 

“The question wasn’t whether people were in favor of raising it or not,” MacManus said. “It was more whether it would impact the economy. Would it improve the economy or would it keep small businesses from hiring more?” 

Opposition for raising the minimum wage was strongest in central Florida. MacManus said this was likely because of a higher concentration of small businesses that may not be able to afford full-time employees. 

On a personal level, 10 percent of those who responded said unemployment was the greatest stress on personal finances, while 9 percent said it was an increase in the cost of basic necessities, such as food. 

In the initial release of the 2014 Sunshine State Survey, which gave an overall view of the issues, the economy was cited as the most important issue to Floridians. Going into the upcoming November elections, MacManus said she hopes public officials will consider addressing the questions and data presented on the survey. 

“In general, it underscores what many people have been talking about,” she said. “Yes, the economy is improving, but Floridians still feel stressed for the state’s economy as a whole and for their own personal financial situation.” 

Further results of the survey are released weekly. Each release over the next four weeks will focus on subjects in depth, such as next week’s report on education. A full release of the 2014 results can be found at