Last survey release explores contentious issues


Though more Floridians think the future looks bright for the Sunshine State, voters can’t agree whether the state is heading in the right direction on a number of controversial issues.

The final release of the Sunshine State Survey, conducted by Nielsen Holdings and the USF College of Arts and Science, examined whether Floridians think the state is moving in the right direction.

“There are some areas that Floridians are very much in agreement on and those they disagree on,” said survey developer and political science professor Susan MacManus. 

Same-sex marriage is one of the most divisive issues for Floridians, with 40 percent saying the state should allow it and 31 percent saying that it’s the wrong decision.  

The issue reached a boiling point on Monday night when Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi demanded the Florida Supreme Court take a definitive stance on same-sex marriage. 

The survey also suggested mixed feelings on firearm regulation.

Around 55 percent favored restricting firearms and 34 percent said the state shouldn’t consider stricter laws. 

Slightly more Floridians, nonetheless, were accepting of citizens using firearms in self-defense. Thirty-one percent thought the state should repeal the Stand Your Ground Law and 41 supported the right to use deadly force against an imminent threat.

The law, a household name since the Trayvon Martin case, continues to be debated in the Florida Legislature. A panel is scheduled to meet in Orlando on Friday to discuss whether it should be changed.

Some other issues that left Floridians divided were medical marijuana, off-shore drilling and use of drones for law enforcement. 

Not all issues lacked consensus though, as only 22 percent want more rights given to immigrants not legally living in Florida.

About 49 percent do not want sales tax on online goods, an issue that’s been bubbling in newspaper business sections and MacManus said aligns Republican candidates with public thinking.

MacManus said the students in her Florida Politics class suggested the ranking system the new survey used. All of the issues were ranked by their level of contention.

“We in polling tend to take one issue at a time but never put them in perspective,” she said. “Rank order shows what Florida looks like, overall.”

MacManus said the survey could help town hall participants ask questions to hold public officials to an opinion that they rather stray away from. The controversial questions could also come up in today’s gubernatorial debate between Charlie Crist and Rick Scott. 

“It will be up to the panelists to try to get the candidates off their talking points, and move into real discussion about things that haven’t been discussed yet,” she said.