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UNF Poll: Most Oppose Raising Jacksonville’s Gas Tax

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Most people are opposed to raising Jacksonville’s Local Option Gas Tax from 6 to 12 cents per gallon, according to a new poll released by the University of North Florida Tuesday.

When asked if they support or oppose a bill that would allocate funds from that gas tax increase to road and transportation improvements, 58% of respondents said they either strongly or somewhat oppose it. But when asked about reallocating funds freed up by the gas tax increase to go toward septic tank phase-out projects, 68% said they strongly or somewhat approved.

“This is a somewhat tricky situation,” said Michael Binder, faculty director of the Public Opinion Research Lab at UNF and associate professor of political science. “The bills are structured so that the septic tank plan depends on freed-up funds from the local option gas tax, but the data shows voters want the improvements without the additional gas tax.”

Respondents were also asked about an amendment to the original gas tax proposal that would reallocate funds from the JTA Skyway improvements to work on the Emerald Trail.

When asked how much money should be spent on improving the Skyway, 34% said none, 21% said less than $190 million and 21% said $229 million. When asked how much should be spent on the Emerald Trail, 54% said at least $150 million, 23% said even more should be spent, 26% said it should be less than $150 million and 20% said no money should be spent on the trail at all.

“An enormous majority, 87%, think that less money should be allocated to the Skyway than the original proposal, many of whom think the number should be zero,” said Binder. “The Emerald Trail fared somewhat better, but voters aren’t terribly excited about spending money on either project.”

The poll also found that support for removing Confederate statues from public spaces in Jacksonville has fallen from 65% in June of 2020 to 51% now. Meanwhile, 52% of respondents say they support renaming Duval County Public Schools that are currently named after Confederate soldiers.

Respondents were also asked if they approve or disapprove of several federal, state and local elected officials. In the overall sample, 49% said they approve of President Joe Biden, 46% said they disapprove and 5% said they didn’t know. Among Democrats, 61% said they strongly approve and 78% of Republicans said they strongly disapprove.

Fla. Gov. Ron DeSantis did a little better than President Biden, with half of respondents saying they approve of the job he’s doing, 46% saying they disapprove and 4% saying they don’t know. Sixty-eight percent of Democrats said they strongly disapprove of the governor while 76% of Republicans said they strongly approve. Agricultural commissioner Nikki Fried got 37% approval, 17% disapproval and 46% said they didn’t know.

Mayor Lenny Curry had a 48% job approval among Duval County voters, up from 42% in December of 2020, while 43% said they disapprove and 9% said they didn’t know. Approval of Sheriff Mike Williams was a little higher at 50%, with 30% disapproving and 20% saying they don’t know. Jacksonville City Council as a whole had a 34% approval with 23% saying they don’t know. State Attorney Melissa Nelson’s approval was at 38% with 18% saying they disapproved and 43% saying they don’t know.

When asked who they would vote for in the upcoming mayoral race if the election were held today, the two candidates with the most support were Democrat Donna Deegan at 19% and Republican City Councilman Matt Carlucci at 18%. Twenty percent said they would vote for someone who wasn’t on the list provided by UNF and 13% said they didn’t know.

Deegan, a former First Coast News anchor, has not announced whether she will run for mayor, while Carlucci announced his candidacy earlier this year.

“Although it’s still very far out from the election, it is interesting to see a relatively even split between Democrat Donna Deegan and Republican Matt Carlucci,” Binder commented. “It will be even more interesting to see how these numbers change over the next two years, as more candidates throw their hats into the ring.”

For more on the results and the methodology behind the poll, click here.

Brendan Rivers can be reached at brivers@wjct.org, 904-358-6396 or on Twitter at @BrendanRivers.