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2016 USF-Nielsen Sunshine State Survey: Majority of Floridians in Favor of Trained Staff Carrying Firearms at Schools and Imposing Heavier Fines for Texting While Driving; Oppose Creating More Highway Toll Lanes

Education, transportation, health and recreation hot topics in survey findings shared by University of South Florida Professor Susan MacManus

TAMPA, Fla. (Oct. 18, 2016) Floridians favor allowing trained staff to carry firearms in public schools and oppose supporting study abroad programs in countries with known terrorist activity, according to the 2016 USF-Nielsen Sunshine State Survey. In addition, the majority of Florida adults agree the state would be going in the right direction by requiring elementary schools to have 20 minutes of daily recess, increasing the smoking age from 18 to 21 and imposing heavier fines for texting while driving.

The findings released Tuesday by Distinguished University Professor Susan MacManus at the University of South Florida College of Arts and Sciences cover Floridians' opinions about education, transportation, health and recreation. The next data release scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 25 will focus on trust in government, state leadership and livability in Florida.

"Reaching consensus on emerging public concerns has been easier to reach on some issues than others. There's consensus among survey respondents on four issues – requiring elementary schools to give students a 20-minute recess daily, imposing heavier fines on those who text while driving, prohibiting use of government funds to renovate privately-owned sports facilities, and withdrawing support of university study abroad programs in countries with known terrorist activity," MacManus said. "But Floridians are more divided on other issues related to individual behavior including gun use training, smoking, sports gambling and transportation issues such as road tolls and ways to improve traffic flows."

Education

  • Allowing Trained Staff to Carry Firearms at Public Schools – More Floridians support allowing trained staff to carry firearms with 35 percent that "strongly favor" and 21 percent in "favor" as compared to 29 percent that "strongly oppose" and 11 percent that "oppose." Stronger supporters are males, working-age residents, whites, those living in affluent households, college graduates, and residents of the Orlando and North Florida areas.

Infographic: Trained Staff Carrying Firearms at Public Schools

  • Supporting Study Abroad Programs in Countries with Terrorist Activity – Floridians agree (76 percent) that universities should not support study abroad programs in countries with known terrorist activity. Those more supportive are younger Floridians, Hispanics, African-Americans, and residents of the Miami/Ft. Lauderdale and Palm Beach areas.

Infographic: Study Abroad Programs in Countries with Terrorist Activity

  • State Going in Right/Wrong Direction Requiring Elementary Schools to Have 20 Minutes of Recess Daily – More than 80 percent of Floridians believe ordering elementary schools to have 20 minutes of recess daily is moving in the "right direction." Only 5 percent opposed and 14 percent did not express an opinion.

Infographic: Requiring Elementary Schools to Have 20 Minutes of Recess Daily

Transportation

  • State Going in Right/Wrong Direction Imposing Heavier Fines for Texting When Driving – The vast majority (87 percent) of Florida adults view imposing heavier fines for texting while driving as moving the state in the "right direction" and only 7 percent see it going in the "wrong direction."

Infographic: Imposing Heavier Fines for Texting While Driving

  • State Going in Right/Wrong Direction Creating More Urban Highway Toll Lanes – The change is seen as going in the "right direction" by 30 percent of Floridians while 20 percent have no opinion. The most opposition to creating more urban highway toll lanes came from older Floridians, Hispanics, and mid-income households.

Infographic: Creating More Urban Highway Toll Lanes

  • Improving Traffic Flow – Synchronization of traffic lights identified as the top priority in improving traffic flow (40 percent) followed by building more lanes (23 percent). Improving the bus system was preferred by 14 percent and building light rail was 13 percent with light rail favored by residents of the Tampa Bay, Orlando, and Miami/Ft. Lauderdale areas.

Infographic: Improving Traffic Flow

Health

  • State Performance Ensuring Safe Drinking Water – More than half (52 percent) of the state's population gives the state either "good" or "excellent" marks for ensuring safe drinking water. Only 17 percent rate as "poor" and 28 percent rate as "fair."

Infographic: Ensuring Safe Drinking Water

  • State Going in Right/Wrong Direction Banning Use of Smokeless Tobacco and E-Cigarettes in Public Places – More than half (54 percent) of Florida adults see the state going in the "right direction" by banning use of smokeless tobacco and e-cigarettes in smoke-free public places. Highest "wrong direction" ratings came from males, retirement-age Floridians, and Hispanics.

Infographic: Banning Use of Smokeless Tobacco and E-Cigarettes in Public Places

  • State Going in Right/Wrong Direction Increasing Smoking Age from 18 to 21 – More Floridians (57 percent) see increasing the smoking age to 21 as a move in the "right direction" compared to 22 percent as seeing the state moving in the "wrong direction." Females, mid-income households, and Floridians with some college education most likely to support.

Infographic: Increasing Smoking Age from 18 to 21

Recreation

  • Using Government Money to Build/Renovate Private Sports Facilities – More than 80 percent of Floridians oppose using government money to renovate sports facilities used by privately-owned teams. The strongest support came from males, younger Floridians, low-income households, and those with less formal educational attainment.

Infographic: Using Government Money to Build/Renovate Private Sports Facilities

  • State Going in Right/Wrong Direction Regulating Fantasy Sports as Gambling– Four out of 10 Floridians do not have an opinion on regulating fantasy sports as gambling which indicates a high level of unfamiliarity with the issue. Increasing regulation was seen as going in the "wrong direction" by 36 percent and 24 percent see it as going in the "right direction."

Infographic: Regulating Fantasy Sports as Gambling

The full data release on education, health, transportation and recreation 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 quality of education, promoting more school choice (vouchers), safety of children at school, federal funding for Medicaid expansion, assisting mentally/physically disabled, addressing wrong way driving deaths, state performance on public transportation, roads and bridges, and allowing more casino gambling.

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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56% of Floridians favor trained staff carrying firearms in public schools @SunStateSurvey

Elementary schools having 20 minutes of daily recess supported by more than 80% of Florida adults @SunStateSurvey

Floridians rate the state as doing a good or excellent job ensuring safe drinking water @SunStateSurvey

Banning the use of smokeless tobacco and e-cigarettes in smoke-free public places favored by Floridians @SunStateSurvey

90% of Floridians want heavier fines for texting while driving #sunshinestatesurvey

Synchronization of traffic lights and building more lanes top list on ways to improve traffic flow @SunStateSurvey

Florida adults oppose using government money to build sports facilities used by privately-owned teams @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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