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Poll: Florida voters high on recreational marijuana, school choice


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Days after the start of the Legislative Session, the University of North Florida’s Public Opinion Research Lab released survey results on the opinion of registered voters on a variety of topics, including the use of recreational marijuana and universal school choice.

The findings could fire up supporters of a proposed change to Florida’s constitution to legalize adult personal use of marijuana. About 70% of voters said they would support such a measure, while just 29% felt harsh on the proposal.

That compares to 76% who backed the proposal when UNF polled voters last spring and is much higher than the 64% who favored legalizing recreational weed in late 2019.

The level of support could be consequential as Florida requires 60% of voters to support an amendment at the ballot box to amend the state constitution.

“Efforts to put recreational marijuana in front of voters in 2024 are in the beginning stages, but support for it is high across the political spectrum,” said Dr. Michael Binder, Research Lab faculty director. “If it makes it onto the ballot next year, and that’s a big ‘if,’ it has a good chance of reaching the 60% supermajority needed to pass.”

Voters also weighed in on matters state lawmakers expect to take up in the coming weeks. While members of the state Senate debate the cost of the school voucher measures, voters seem to favor the plan regardless of a potentially high price.

Asked whether they support all K-12 students becoming eligible for public funds that cover private school tuition, about 53% voiced support and 39% expressed some level of opposition. That was after pollsters gave respondents an estimate of $2.5 billion as the cost of such an expansion, which is much more than House estimates but more than $1 billion less than some outside analysts expect such a program would cost.

Of note, 50% of Democrats support the plan, closely aligning with the 52% support found among Republicans. But it’s voters unaffiliated with either party who show the most enthusiasm, with 58% supporting the voucher expansion and 33% strongly supporting it.

Pollsters also asked about a controversial proposal to make School Board seats into partisan positions, something that also would require amending the state constitution. But here, the 60% threshold seems a far-off target. About 65% of voters oppose such a change, and just 26% favor the move.

An overhaul of Florida’s higher education found scant support from the public. With such proposals presented as eliminating critical race theory and ending diversity, equity and inclusion programs, 61% of voters say lawmakers should nix the plans, and only 35% embrace the change.

But there was a notably partisan split, with a majority of Republicans favoring the move.

“Despite elevated support among Republicans, many voters we spoke to are not so thrilled about some of DeSantis’s most recent proposals in his war on ‘woke’ culture, this time targeting Florida’s public colleges and universities with HB 999 and SB 266,” stated Binder. “A notable chunk of Republicans (38%) don’t like the restrictions, but the 56% in support reflects the likely outcome in Florida’s Republican-controlled Legislature.”

However, there’s opposition across the board to another conservative plan moving through the Legislature with Republican support. About 77% of voters oppose permitless carry of firearms. That number is high in part to opposition from 93% of Democrats, but 62% of Republicans who want those with concealed weapons to obtain permits with the state.

“Not only is there bipartisan opposition to this ‘constitutional carry’ bill, but folks seem to feel passionate about it with the majority (67%) saying they strongly oppose the bill,” Binder said. “Even among Republicans, most people are against carrying weapons without a permit.”

Asked to prioritize what the Legislature should be working on, a full 25% of voters listed affordable housing as Florida’s biggest problem. Economic issues came in second place, ranking as the top concern of 17% of voters, while 12% listed education, 10% said immigration and 7% care most about gun policy.

The poll results included responses from 1,452 registered voters surveyed between Feb. 25 and March 7. The margin of error is +/- 2.57%.

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets, including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at jacobogles@hotmail.com.