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Most Floridians oppose Legislature's push to restrict abortion, UNF poll finds

 Demonstrators chant slogans during a rally in support of abortion rights on May 23, 2019, in Miami.
Lynne Sladky
AP file
Demonstrators chant slogans during a rally in support of abortion rights on May 23, 2019, in Miami.

A large share of Floridians disagree with the Legislature's push to restrict abortion and classroom discussion of sexual orientation, according to a new poll from the University of North Florida.

The Florida House passed a bill last week to ban abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, one of the stiffest restrictions in the nation. But 57% of voters polled by the Public Opinion Research Lab at UNF oppose the bill either strongly or somewhat.

Opposition was slightly higher when respondents were told that the bill does not include exceptions for rape or incest.

"The fact that the responses weren't terribly different speaks to the highly partisan and emotional nature of the abortion debate," said Michael Binder, faculty director of the lab and a professor of political science. "People tend to know where they stand on the issue, and question wording doesn't change very many people's minds."

Results broke dramatically along party lines: 51% of Republicans in the survey agreed with the bill but only 14% of Democrats.

Voters also were asked whether they agree with a bill that would prohibit school districts from encouraging discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in lower grades. A total of 49% opposed the proposal. which critics have dubbed the "Don't Say Gay" bill. Some 40% of respondents supported it either somewhat or strongly.

Again, the results differed by political party, with support from 54% of Republicans but only 26% of Democrats.

The poll, released Tuesday, is based on phone interviews with 685 registered voters from Feb. 7 through 20. A total of 36% were Democrats, 36% Republicans and 29% no party affiliation or other.

The poll has a margin of error of +/-3.74 percentage points.

The poll also found:

  • 49% of respondents oppose a proposed constitutional amendment that would require school board candidates to run in partisan elections. Just over 30% support the idea, which Binder said "seems to indicate Florida voters want to keep politics out of the education system."

  • Half of the people surveyed support legalized sports betting at professional sports venues or online. Half of the respondents were asked whether they would support sports betting if the revenue went to education. Support jumped to 60% among that group.
  • 76% of the voters support legalizing marijuana for recreational use — 64% of Republicans and 76% of Democrats. Support has grown by 12 percentage points from a survey in November 2019.
  • 21% of respondents said the economy, jobs and unemployment are the most important problem facing Florida. That was followed by immigration at 14%, education at 12% and COVID-19 at 11%.
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    Randy Roguski