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Deegan holds huge lead in mayor's race, but many voters undecided, poll shows

About 800 people participated in the DONNA Foundation's Mother's Day 5k in 2022.
DONNA Foundation
About 800 people participated in the DONNA Foundation's Mother's Day 5k in 2022.

Democrat Donna Deegan holds a commanding lead in the race for Jacksonville mayor, but so many people are undecided that the election could be anyone's to win, according to a new poll from the University of North Florida’s Public Opinion Research Lab.

Among registered voters who are likely to vote in the March 21 election, 37% said they will vote for Deegan, far more than the next-highest candidate: Republican Daniel Davis with 20%. They are followed by Republican Al Ferraro with 8%; Democrat Audrey Gibson with 7%; Republican LeAnna Cumber with 5%; Omega Allen, no party affiliation, with 1%; and Republican Frank Keasler, also with 1%.

Twenty-two percent said they don't know whom they'd vote for.

The poll mirrored the results of the St. Pete Poll commissioned by Florida Politics earlier this month. In that poll, Degan attracted 35% support followed by Davis at 17.5%. Nearly 20% were undecided.

UNF polled 531 registered, likely voters in Duval County by phone Feb. 20 to 24. A voter was considered “likely” if they had voted in any of the following local elections: the 2019 Duval First Election, 2019 Duval General Election, 2021 Special First Unitary Election, or 2022 Special General Unitary Election.

The margin of error in the sample was +/- 4 percentage points.

“Donna Deegan is the clear frontrunner in a crowded field, that looks poised to go until May,” said Michael Binder, director at the UNF lab and a professor of political science. “That said, 31% of Republican and 24% of Independent voters are still undecided, and that means it could still be anyone’s race.”

The top two finishers March 21 will advance to the general election in May if no one wins a majority of the votes.

Deegan came out ahead in all hypothetical head-to-head races against the top three Republican candidates. Davis fared the best in those matchups, with 48% of respondents indicating a vote for Deegan, 39% for Davis, and 14% who said they don’t know or refused to answer. Deegan garnered 51% of the vote when stacked up against Ferraro, with 35%, and 14% who don’t know or refused. Cumber came in with 30% against Deegan’s 53%, with 18% who don’t know or refused.

“Again, we’re seeing between 12% and 20% of Republican voters still don’t know who they’d pick, even when choosing between Deegan and the top three Republican candidates,” Binder said. “That big block of undecided voters makes this race particularly hard to predict, and they may ultimately decide which two candidates go on to the general election in May.”

On other topics:

JAGUARS: 84% of respondents said it is very important or somewhat important to have an NFL team in town. But 61% either strongly or somewhat oppose the idea of spending up to $750 million of public funds to split the cost of renovating TIAA Bank Field with the Jaguars. Asked whether they had shouted “DUUUVAL” in the past year, 48% said they had. “I think it’s safe to say a lot of people like having an NFL team, and even approve of Shad Khan, but the voters we’ve talked to do not want to foot the bill for a new or improved stadium,” Binder said. "It’s clearly not for lack of Duval pride, but most prefer to let the billionaire buy his own toys."

CONFEDERATE MONUMENTS: People are split about whether Confederate monuments should be removed from public spaces. Forty-five percent strongly or somewhat support the idea, and 51% oppose it either strongly or somewhat. “As you might expect, support for removing the monuments is higher among registered Democrats and Black respondents, while Republicans and white respondents have greater opposition," Binder said.

BIGGEST PROBLEM: Thirty-seven percent of respondents said crime is the most important problem facing Jacksonville — 46% of Republicans and 27% of Democrats. Education, the economy and housing costs are a distant second at 12%.

REPUBLICAN CONVENTION: Fifty-eight percent favor Jacksonville's hosting the Republican National Convention, a possibility under discussion. Thirty-five percent are opposed. Support is higher among registered Republicans at 87%, but 28% of Democrats are on board.

APPROVAL RATING: Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence earned the highest approval rating in the poll, with 86% of respondents saying they approve either strongly or somewhat. Head coach Doug Pederson and owner Shad Khan also fared well, with 84% and 71% approval, respectively. By contrast, 52% of respondents approve of the way Mayor Lenny Curry is handling his job, 45% approve of City Council and 51% approve of State Attorney Melissa Nelson.

Dan Scanlan is a veteran journalist with almost 40 years as a radio, television and print reporter in the Jacksonville area, as well as years of broadcast work in the Northeast. You can reach Dan at, (904) 607-2770 or on Twitter at @scanlan_dan.