Press Releases

Floridians Want More Information on Pros and Cons of Amendments, Believe Amendments Are Put on Ballot by Special Interest Groups and Support Moving to an Open Primary System as Revealed in the 2016 USF-Nielsen Sunshine State Survey

Survey findings about amendment information and sources, voting rights of felons, open or closed primaries, election equipment, voter information and voting convenience shared by University of South Florida Professor Susan MacManus

TAMPA, Fla. (Oct. 12, 2016) More than 70 percent of Floridians believe constitutional amendments are put on the ballot by well-financed special interest groups, and 60 percent say they do not get enough information on proposed constitutional amendments, according to the 2016 USF-Nielsen Sunshine State Survey. In addition, 67 percent of voters believe Florida should move to an open primary system where independents may vote in partisan primaries.

Distinguished University Professor Susan MacManus at the University of South Florida College of Arts and Sciences released findings on Floridians' opinions on election issues. The next data release scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 18 will focus on education, health, transportation, and recreation.

"These results are very instructive to election officials and advocates on both sides of proposed constitutional amendments. Citizens say they need more information about the voting process and the pros and cons of amendments that will be on the ballot," MacManus said. "Looking ahead, there is also strong support for moving to an open primary system—significant since the survey was taken shortly after the August primary."

Hot topic issue results are:

  • Having Enough Information on Constitutional Amendments – Floridians saying they do not get enough information on proposed amendments is at a four year high (60 percent) – up from 48 percent in 2014. Another 15 percent think they only get one side of the issue. Those out of the workforce, living in low income households, and with some college education are most likely to say they do not get enough information.

Infographic: Enough Information on Constitutional Amendments

  • Identifying Source of Constitutional Amendments Put on Ballots – A majority (71 percent) believes that constitutional amendments are put on the ballot by well-financed special interest groups – down slightly from 2012 and 2014 (question asked every two years). Wealthy, college-educated, and older Floridians are the most likely to view special interest groups as the source of proposed amendments. Younger Floridians, lower-income households, and those with less formal educational attainment are more prone to see average citizens as the source (15 percent).

Infographic: Source of Constitutional Amendments Put on Ballots

  • Restoring the Voting Rights of Felons – More than one-third (37 percent) of Floridians support automatically restoring the voting rights of felons. However, almost half (49 percent) favors the status quorestoration after petitioning the Governor and being granted approval. Younger Floridians, those with a child at home, African-Americans, and persons with some college education are most supportive of automatically restoring voting rights. Older Floridians are most likely to think voting rights should never be restored (7 percent).

Infographic: Restoring Voting Rights of Felons

  • Having Open or Closed Primaries – Two thirds (67 percent) of self-identified registered voters believe Florida should have an open primary system where independents may vote in partisan primaries, while 31 percent prefer that the state keep its current closed primary system. Strongest support for open primary elections comes from females, younger Floridians, the unemployed, part-time workers, those living in low income households, and those with less formal education. The strongest proponents of the closed primary are older, more affluent citizens.

Infographic: Open or Closed Primaries

  • State Performance Providing Dependable Election Equipment – More than half (52 percent) gives the state "good" or "excellent" marks in its provision of dependable election equipment. Every year since 2010, the majority of Floridians have acknowledged the state does a "good" or "excellent" job. Only 14 percent grade the state's efforts as "poor." The most critical of election equipment are males, Hispanics, and residents of Palm Beach. The most laudatory are females, whites, and residents of North Florida.

Infographic: State Performance on Dependable Election Equipment

  • State Performance Making It Convenient to Vote – The state received its best performance rating (68 percent) on making it convenient to vote with "good" or "excellent" ratings. Females, older voters, whites, more affluent households, and residents of Palm Beach give the state the most positive voting convenience marks. The most negative evaluations come from males, younger residents, Hispanics, mid-income households and residents of the Miami area.

Infographic: State Performance on Convenience to Vote

  • State Performance Informing Citizens About Election Laws and Procedures – Floridians gave mixed ratings to the state for the job it does informing citizens with 43 percent giving positive ratings and 55 percent judging it more negatively. Historically, positive citizen ratings have been falling since 2008 – 64 percent in 2008 to 43 percent in 2016. The most critical are males, younger citizens, minorities, and Miami residents. The most positive ratings come from females, older residents, whites, and those living in the Naples area.

Infographic: State Performance on Informing Citizens of Election Laws and Procedures

The full data release on election issues 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 voter registration status, reasons for not registering, and who is eligible to vote in nonpartisan primaries.

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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Website: www.sunshinestatesurvey.org

Twitter: @SunStateSurvey, @DrMacManus and @USFCollege

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6 out of 10 Floridians don't think there's enough information on proposed constitutional amendments @SunStateSurvey

71% believe amendments are put on ballot by well-financed special interest groups @SunStateSurvey

Most in favor of keeping status quo on restoring a felon's voting rights @SunStateSurvey

67% of Florida registered voters support an open primary system allowing independents to vote in partisan primaries @SunStateSurvey

State receives good marks for voting convenience and dependable voting equipment #sunshinestatesurvey

More Floridians want better information about election laws and procedures @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.

-USF-

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