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Poor Trust, Performance Ratings Given to All Levels of Government, But Local Governments Rate Best; Racial/Ethnic Differences Seen as the State's Biggest Obstacle as Reported in the 2016 USF-Nielsen Sunshine State Survey

Federal, state and local leadership, government performance, and livability in Florida are survey findings shared by University of South Florida Professor Susan MacManus

TAMPA, Fla. (Oct. 25, 2016) An overwhelming majority of Floridians do not trust leaders at any level of government and 88 percent oppose lengthening term limits for state legislators. Florida residents do not give governments high marks for the job they do serving the public, per the 2016 USF-Nielsen Sunshine State Survey. A majority (56 percent) identify integrity and honesty as the most important leadership quality. Racial/ethnic differences (24 percent) are the most-cited obstacle to solving major problems compared to 2014 when it was partisan differences (28 percent).

The survey is overseen by Distinguished University Professor Susan MacManus at the University of South Florida College of Arts and Sciences and identifies Floridians' stance on emerging and hot-topic issues. All survey data releases are posted on the USF-Nielsen Sunshine State Survey website, including Quick Facts summaries, infographics in .jpg format, and data analysis with cross tabs.

"Floridians have become more critical of government at all levels regarding their leaders' trustworthiness and job performance (public service). A majority values a leader's integrity and honesty above all else," MacManus said. "But Floridians also recognize that solving the state's big problems can be more difficult because of the extremely diverse population which yields differences of opinion about what should be done and how. The most cited obstacle in 2016 is the state's racial/ethnic divide. In 2014, it was the partisan divide between Democrats and Republicans."

Biggest Divide

  • Racial/ethnic differences are the biggest divide in the state – Racial/ethnic differences are seen by 24 percent of Floridians as making coalition-building more difficult an increase of 14 percent since 2014 (the last time the question was asked.) Other responses include elected official/average citizen differences (16 percent), partisan differences (13 percent), income inequalities (12 percent) and generational differences (11 percent). In comparison, the partisan divide was the most cited in 2014 (28 percent), followed by elected official/average citizen differences (17 percent) and income (rich vs. poor) differences (16 percent). Racial/ethnic differences ranked fourth (12 percent).

Infographic: Biggest Divide in State

Leadership and Government Performance

  • Most Important Leadership Quality – A majority (56 percent) of Floridians identify integrity and honesty as the most important leadership qualities, followed by consensus-building/bipartisanship (9 percent), consistency (7 percent), good communication skills (7 percent), intelligence (7 percent), compassion (6 percent), and vision (5 percent). Older Floridians look for integrity and honesty at a higher rate than younger Floridians.

Infographic: Most Important Leadership Quality

  • Citizen Trust in Leadership – Leaders at all levels of government received negative trust ratings ("fair" or "poor") from a majority of Floridians. Thefederal government leaders are trusted least with 80 percent of Florida citizens giving them negative marks. Local government leaders are trusted the most, although a majority (62 percent) of their ratings are still negative. State government leaders fall in the middle—74 percent with "fair" or "poor" evaluations. Females trust government leaders at all levels more than males. Hispanics trust the federal government more than other races.

Infographic: Citizen Trust in Government

  • NEW Increasing Term Limits in Florida's Legislature – Almost 90 percent of Floridians oppose increasing term limits for state legislators from 8 to 12 years. Whites, retired Floridians and mid-income households are the strongest opponents.

Infographic: Increase Term Limits in Florida's Legislature

  • Government Performance Ratings – Floridians do not give governments at any level high marks for the job they do serving the public. They are most critical of federal and state governments' performance (rated as "fair" or "poor" by 73 percent and 69 percent respectively. There is less disparity between positive and negative ratings of local governments. Overall, females, older Floridians, and mid-income households assign more positive government performance ratings than their respective counterparts.

Infographic: Federal Government Performance Rating

Infographic: State Government Performance Rating

Infographic: County Government Performance Rating

Infographic: City Government Performance Rating

Livability (Quality of Life): Present and Future

  • State of Florida: Better or Worse Than Five Years Ago – Almost half (48 percent) of long-term residents think that Florida's livability is the "same" today as five years ago, but slightly more rate it as "worse" (26 percent) than "better" (23 percent). The "worse" ratings are the lowest in 10 years.

Infographic: Florida Better or Worse Than Five Years Ago

  • Future Outlook (Next Five Years) – Younger Floridians, African-Americans and mid-income households are most likely to believe quality of life will get better over the next five years. Older Floridians, Hispanics, and low-income households are most prone to project a worsening quality of life.

State – Four-in-10 Floridians (41 percent) believe the quality of life in the state will not change during the next five years, while a third (32 percent) are optimistic and believe it will improve.

County – A plurality (42 percent) predicts little change in their own county's livability, while 36 percent expects it to improve.

Neighborhood – The clear majority (60 percent) does not see the quality of life in their own neighborhood changing much during the next five years – a pattern observed since 2010.

Infographic: State Better or Worse in Next Five Years

Infographic: County Better or Worse in Next Five Years

Infographic: Neighborhood Better or Worse in Next Five Years

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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Racial and ethnic differences seen as state's biggest divide @SunStateSurvey

Integrity and honesty identified as the most important leadership qualities @SunStateSurvey

80% of Floridians give federal government leaders negative trust ratings @SunStateSurvey

Increasing state legislature term limits strongly opposed by Florida residents @SunStateSurvey

Only 29% of Floridians give positive ratings to state government performance #sunshinestatesurvey

41% believe quality of life in Florida will not change during the next five years @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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