A wide-spanning Tributary/UNF poll found that despite political polarization on many topics, two out of three voters oppose any effort to bring Texas’ latest abortion restrictions to Florida.
Only about one in four voters said they supported it; the rest were undecided.
So far, Florida’s legislative proposal to follow Texas’ footsteps hasn’t gained traction in the Legislature. Florida’s constitution also guarantees a right to privacy, something that past state Supreme Courts have used to strike down abortion restrictions. The state’s current high court is much more conservative than those past ones, however, and has shown few qualms with overturning longstanding precedent.
Other poll questions focused on how residents viewed local media. Seventy-five percent of people said they trusted local news, compared to 60 percent for national news and 18 percent for information coming from social media.
The polling of 806 registered voters was part of an overall assessment of the local news landscape the Tributary will publish later this month. The polling was thanks to funding by the Jessie Ball duPont Fund, which financed research into local news habits in Jacksonville.
The Tributary is a nonprofit, nonpartisan digital news source committed to filling in Jacksonville’s local news coverage gaps. This was the Tributary’s first poll conducted with the University of North Florida, funded by the Jessie Ball duPont Fund to get a more accurate picture of perceptions of the media in Northeast Florida.
“Original, local journalism is a public good, and the strength of the local news ecosystem has been linked to a stronger democracy, reduced political polarization, and higher turnout in local elections,” said Deirdre Conner, board chair of The Tributary. “With two in five residents saying they have voted in local elections where they couldn’t find news reporting about the candidates, it is crucial that our community come together to help strengthen local news.”
Even with the high level of trust in local news, 81 percent of people said they had not paid or given money to any local news, and 67 percent said they believed local news was doing financially well, despite steep cuts to the number of journalists at the local daily newspaper, The Florida Times-Union.
Those who paid for local news were five times as likely to believe that local news was not doing financially well, and they were most likely to say they paid for local news so that they could “help fund good journalism.”
News4Jax was the preferred news outlet for 37 percent of people, followed by First Coast News at 14 percent, The Times-Union at 12 percent, WJCT at 11 percent and Action News Jax at 10 percent. News4Jax also had one of the most racially diverse audiences of any outlet.
“Jacksonville has a variety of local news options, and our residents are diverse in their consumption habits,” said Michael Binder, director of the UNF Public Opinion Research Lab. “The more local news options, the better. Whether it’s television in the early morning, radio on the way home from work or news alerts on our phones throughout the day – the more access we have to local information, the better suited we are to navigate society.”
The poll also found that voters were more likely to think that the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office budget, at more than half a billion dollars, was “too much” (35 percent) than “about right” (32 percent) or “not enough” (16 percent).
“You’re never going to have unanimity of support for budgeting issues, and policing issues have deep political divisions,” Binder said in a statement. “But the partisan splits are extreme – Democrats are about 40 percentage points more likely than Republicans to think JSO’s budget is too much.”
Nothing might be as polarizing as who voters believe won the 2020 election. Two-thirds of Republicans (65 percent) said Donald Trump won the most votes cast by eligible voters in enough states to win the election, while 97 percent of Democrats said Joe Biden won the election. One in five voters not registered with the two parties also believed Trump won the election.
Trump and his campaign lost dozens of lawsuits challenging the 2020 presidential election results, and the U.S. Supreme Court rejected multiple attempts to overturn the election. An audit of votes in Arizona brought about by conservatives in that state confirmed Biden’s victory there.
Residents united in saying that the most important stories for local news to cover were about elections and voting (94% identified it as necessary), followed by news about city government (90%), the Legislature (89%), police and prosecutors (83%), public health (83%), jobs (79%) and schools (62%).
More than two out of five residents (43%) said they’ve voted in elections where they couldn’t find any local news coverage about the candidates.
Residents were also more likely to believe local news was accurate (58%) than thorough (48%). Only 39% of residents said local news did a good job of holding elected leaders accountable.
Residents said they were civically engaged in the last year.
Half of the respondents said they’ve contacted their elected officials in the last year. One-third have attended neighborhood meetings. One-third have started or participated in discussion groups. One out of four have attended or listened to public hearings or city council meetings, and 22 percent have organized or participated in protests. About 70 percent of people said they’d done at least one of those activities.
The majority of Republicans and Democrats alike want to see redistricting handled by an independent panel of equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans rather than by state legislators, as is currently happening. Overall, 70 percent of voters support an independent commission, while just 13 percent support the Legislature redrawing its seats.
About 82 percent of voters said they were vaccinated, compared to 76 percent reported vaccinated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One of the steepest divides in who was vaccinated was whether a person said they paid for local news: 95 percent of those who said they paid for local news said they were vaccinated, versus 75 percent of those who don’t pay for local news.
When drawing those seats, 46 percent believe legislative districts should reflect neighborhoods & communities, more than any other factor considered. Florida Republicans have said they will not consider so-called communities of interest as a factor in redistricting.
Twenty percent of voters had no opinion, 15 percent want districts as competitive as possible, 11 percent want districts proportional to the overall vote, and just eight percent want districts to remain the same as they are now.
In Jacksonville, the City Council has decided to prioritize keeping local districts the same as much as possible.