UNF Poll Finds Voters Favor Elected Superintendent, Schools Sales-Tax Ballot Vote

Nov 6, 2019

Results from the latest University of North Florida public opinion poll show broad support for a number of hot button issues in Duval County.

Related: View The complete Poll Results

According to the survey of more than 600 registered voters, 74% support a proposed half-cent sales tax that the Duval County Public Schools Board says is needed to upgrade, repair or replace the district’s aging school buildings.

Related: Council Kills School Tax Bill Without The Public Present

The school board is currently suing the Jacksonville City Council over its refusal to put the sales tax question on the ballot this year.

When asked if the school superintendent should be an elected rather than an appointed position, which is what it is now, 70% said the voters ought to decide who gets the job.

Related: Proposal To Elect Duval's Superintendent Takes A Step Forward

Mike Binder, head of the Public Opinion Research Lab at UNF said he wasn’t terribly surprised by that response.

“People like to vote for things. People like to have the ability to have their voices heard, whether it’s for elected officials or if it’s for policy issues. And the idea that they’d be able to have their voice heard on who the superintendent is, isn’t particularly shocking to me.”

A measure sponsored by Jacksonville Republican State Representative Jason Fischer would put that question to the voters next November if state lawmakers give their approval during the upcoming legislative session that starts January 14 in Tallahassee.

The UNF poll also found overwhelming support for legalizing recreational marijuana.  Binder said he’s amazed at how that support shakes out.

“That’s an issue that has support among Republicans… and Democrats and NPAs and other parties are also extremely in favor of it. But a majority of Republicans say ‘yeah’.”

Voters were also asked what the most important issues facing Jacksonville are. Crime remained at the top of the list for a fifth year in a row, at 44%, with education coming in a distant second at 13%. Downtown redevelopment was third with 9%.

Mayor Lenny Curry's job approval rating came in at 47%, with 29% disapproving, while a majority of voters approve of the job Sheriff Mike Williams is doing. The sheriff's approval rate was 54%, with 31% disapproving of Williams' performance. 

“Both Mayor Curry, who was elected by running on reducing crime, and Sheriff Williams have net positive support – though Williams’ net positive support is 7 points higher,” said Binder.

The poll also asked voters for their opinion on another potential policy issue that Duval County may face at some point in the future.

The UNF survey found voters are split on the question of whether plastic straws should be banned in Jacksonville, with 47% saying they would no support a ban, and 42% saying they would support one.

Related: DeSantis Vetoes Bill On Plastic Straw Bans

Binder said additional poll results will be released Thursday that have to do with JEA, The Florida Times-Union and the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Contact reporter Cyd Hoskinson at choskinson@wjct.org, 904-358-6351 and on Twitter at @cydwjctnews.

Bill Bortzfield can be reached at bbortzfield@wjct.org, 904-358-6349 or on Twitter at @BortzInJax.