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Immigration, Guns/Assault Weapons, Crime, Human/Sex Trafficking, Drone Use and Personal Safety Are Key Issues in the 2016 USF-Nielsen Sunshine State Survey

University of South Florida Professor Susan MacManus shares survey findings about state's performance and citizen opinion on key issues about immigration, crime and personal safety

TAMPA, Fla. (Oct. 10, 2016) Almost half of Floridians believe banning the sale of semi-automatic weapons would be moving the state in the right direction, according to the 2016 USF-Nielsen Sunshine State Survey. In addition, the majority of Floridians are against granting more rights and assistance to undocumented immigrants or creating safe zones in cities for undocumented immigrants.

Distinguished University Professor Susan MacManus at the University of South Florida College of Arts and Sciences today released findings on Floridians' opinions about immigration, crime, law enforcement, personal safety and liberty. The next data release scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 12 will focus on elections—constitutional amendments, primary structure, felon voting rights, equipment, convenience, and information available to citizens.

"Florida's very diverse population has yielded intense debates about immigration, gun ownership, human trafficking and individual rights (privacy and religious liberty)," MacManus said. "A common thread tying these issues together is a genuine concern for the personal safety and security of those who live in the Sunshine State. Stark differences are in opinions on how to make it happen. Generational, racial, and gender divides are the deepest on immigration, human trafficking, and gun ownership."

Hot topic issue results are:

  • Granting More Rights and Assistance to Undocumented Immigrants – Majority of Floridians (55 percent) are against this. The strongest opposition comes from older Floridians, whites, and residents of Tampa Bay and North Florida regions. The most supportive are millennials, racial/ethnic minorities, and low-income households.

Infographic: Granting more rights and assistance to undocumented immigrants

  • Creating Safe Zones in Florida Cities for Undocumented Immigrants Facing Deportation – Majority (58 percent) think Florida cities should not be allowed to create safe zones. Older and retired Floridians, whites, full time workers, and more affluent households are most likely to oppose.

Infographic: Creating safe zones for undocumented immigrants

  • State Performance on Reducing Human/Sex Trafficking – The state has room for improvement with only 23 percent rating as doing a "good" or "excellent" job reducing trafficking. An equal number (23 percent) rated as "poor" with a quarter (25 percent) not providing an answer. Most critical are females, working-age Floridians, African-Americans and Hispanics.

Infographic: State performance on reducing human/sex trafficking

  • State Going in Right/Wrong Direction on Banning Sale of Semi-Automatic Assault Weapons – Almost half (49 percent) believe banning sale of semi-automatic assault weapons would be moving the state in the right direction. More than a third (37 percent) think a ban would be a move in the wrong direction. Support for a ban is strongest among women, older Floridians, and African Americans.

Infographic: Banning sale of semi-automatic weapons

  • Making it Easier or Harder for a Felon to Regain Gun Rights – Six out of 10 Floridians think it should be harder or impossible for convicted felons to have gun rights restored. The majority believe it should be harder (57 percent) and others volunteered statements saying it should be impossible (3 percent). Those with a young child at home are considerably more in favor of making it harder, as are women and older Floridians.

Infographic: Making easier or harder for felon to regain gun rights

  • State Performance Regulating Use of Drones by Private Citizens – Floridians believe the state is doing a "poor" (24 percent) or "fair" job (30 percent) regulating private drone use. Nearly a quarter (24 percent) did not express an opinion. Generational differences are quite evident: younger Floridians give the state higher marks than older residents. (Private drone use is often seen by supporters as an individual liberty, but by opponents as a violation of their right to privacy f rom those who have drones.)

Infographic: State performance addressing the problem of sinkholes

  • State Going in Right/Wrong Direction Passing Legislation to Protect Religious Liberties – Majority (58 percent ) think passing a law to protect religious liberty is moving the state in the right direction. Floridians with child under 18 in the home, unemployed, retired and those with higher educational attainment most likely to support passing a religious liberty law.

Infographic: Passing legislation to protect religious liberties

The full data release on immigration, crime, law enforcement, personal safety and liberty is posted on the USF-Nielsen Sunshine State Survey website, including a Quick Facts summary, infographics in .jpg format for download, and data analysis with cross tabs.

Additional data reveals views about the death penalty, stand your ground law, law enforcement using drones, legalizing recreational marijuana and safety in public places. Floridians also grade the performance of law enforcement and the court system.

Results of this survey are based on 1,248 telephone interviews conducted by The Nielsen Company Sept. 1-19, 2016 with a random sample of adults, aged 18 and older, residing in Florida households. For a random sample of 1,248 adults, one can say with 95 percent confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ± 2.77 percentage points. Refer to the USF-Nielsen Sunshine State Survey website for complete methodology.

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55% of Floridians are against granting more rights/assistance to undocumented immigrants @SunStateSurvey

Florida receives poor marks for reducing human/sex trafficking @SunStateSurvey

49% of Floridians think it's the right move for state to ban sale of semi-automatic weapons and 37% think it's a wrong move @SunStateSurvey

6 of 10 Floridians agree state should make it harder or impossible for convicted felons to have gun rights restored @SunStateSurvey

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.


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