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FIU grad student joins USF researcher in statewide public opinion survey on abortion and gun reform

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An FIU graduate student is collaborating with researchers at the University of South Florida on a statewide survey aimed at measuring public opinion on a variety of current policy issues.

The findings address the recent Supreme Court ruling on abortion, the economy, gun violence/reform and presidential/gubernatorial job approval.

Bethany Bowra

Bethany Bowra , a doctoral candidate in political science, has worked with Stephen Neely, an associate professor at USF's School of Public Affairs, on several public opinion projects, including polling on social media, election reform and other topics.

“Working with Dr. Neely and USF on this project has helped me develop stronger skills as a researcher and has taught me valuable things about survey research that sharpened my skills,'' she said. “I am incredibly grateful for the chance to be a part of this survey, and it has been a very enriching experience to see the results of how Floridians feel about a variety of policy issues.”

Among the key findings:

A majority of Floridians disapprove of the Supreme Court's recent decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, but there is little agreement about what Florida should do next when it comes to abortion policy. A majority of respondents (57%) indicated that they disagree with the recent Supreme Court decision on abortion, with 44% saying that they “strongly disapprove”. However, when asked what the state of Florida should do following the decision, respondents were relatively split.

Roughly a third (33%) say that the state should pass a law protecting abortion access.

In contrast, 44% favor some state-level restrictions, including:

  • A “no exceptions” ban on abortion (9%).
  • A statewide abortion ban, with exceptions for rape, incest and mother's health (21%).
  • Restrictions on abortion access after 15 weeks of pregnancy (15%).

Another 13% said that the state should do nothing and leave abortion laws as they are, while 8% were “unsure”.

Abortion continues to be a partisan issue, but Democrats and Republicans see some common ground on support for pregnant mothers and adoption. A majority of Republicans (63%) in Florida approve of the recent Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade. In contrast, only 10% of Democrats and 24% of Independents say the same. However, a majority in all three groups are in favor of increased federal funding to support pregnant women (68% overall), sex education (71%), and child adoption efforts (80%).

Jobs and the economy are the most important issues for a plurality of Floridians. More than a third of respondents identified the economy and jobs as the most important issues facing the state today (35%). Government corruption was the second most frequently identified issue (13%), followed by health care (9%) and immigration (9%). The COVID-19 pandemic was identified as the most important issue by only 7% of Floridians.

Despite high-profile social policy debates, midterm voters are focused on financial concerns. When asked which will have the MOST impact on their votes this fall, a large majority (74%) of likely voters chose “pocketbook issues”, such as jobs, inflation and the economy. In contrast, only 26% said that their votes would be more heavily influenced by social policy issues (such as abortion, equity and LGBTQ rights).

When asked to identify the three issues that will most heavily influence their voting decisions, Floridians chose inflation (48%), the economy/jobs (47%), and gun violence/crime (35%).Most Floridians approve of the recent bipartisan gun reforms passed by Congress, and there is broad bipartisan support for more extensive gun policy reforms. A majority of respondents (59%) say that they support the recent gun reforms passed by Congress. Additionally, in the wake of several high-profile mass shootings, a bipartisan coalition of Floridians supports a range of potential gun reforms, including:

  • Requiring universal background checks for all gun purchases (Democrats 96%, Independents 91%, Republicans 91%).
  • Requiring a license to purchase guns classified as “assault weapons” (Democrats 95%, Independents 84%, Republicans 79%).
  • Prohibiting individuals under 21 years of age from purchasing “assault weapons” (Democrats 95%, Independents 89%, Republicans 81%).
  • Requiring a mandatory waiting period for all gun purchases (Democrats 96%, Independents 85%, Republicans 79%).

A plurality of Floridians approves of the job being done by Gov. Ron DeSantis on “jobs and the economy”, despite partisan splits on many issues. Half of Floridians either “strongly” or “somewhat approve” of the job being done by DeSantis when it comes to jobs and the economy (50%), while a plurality also supported his efforts around conservation (44%).

DeSantis received his lowest public support when it came to climate change, with only 42% of Floridians approving of his job in that area. While the governor's overall approval ratings have remained strong, there has been a slight decline in support from highs observed in our April 2022 poll.

Consistent with national polls, President Biden's approval rating among Floridians has continued to decline. Biden's approval among Florida voters continued to slip (compared to our April 2022 survey).

A majority of respondents now “disapprove” of the job being done by the president in all areas. Regarding immigration and border security, 63% disapprove of the job being done by Biden, while 62% disapprove of his performance when it comes to jobs and the economy.

The survey included a representative sample of 600 Floridians, fielded July 2-10, 2022. Results are reported with a confidence level of 95% and a margin of error +/-4 %.

The complete survey results can be found here.

A second round of results regarding social media and inflation is set to be released soon.