Medical marijuana, Common Core gaining statewide support

More often than not, elections become about people: Not the ones politicians are trying to represent, but the politicians themselves.

The latest release from the University of South Florida’s Sunshine State Survey, however, is trying to shift that focus a bit back to issues, including those affecting the state as a whole.

USF’s School of Public Affairs department, under the direction of Land O’ Lakes native Susan MacManus, worked with television audience aggregator Nielsen to ask 1,875 Floridians what they thought about a variety of issues over the first two weeks of August. And while many of the results were expected, there were a few surprises.

The biggest was whether the state should pass stricter gun laws. The issue of gun control has become a Red State/Blue State debate for some time, but in Florida, 55 percent of those surveyed support the idea of making gun laws more strict, while 34 percent were against it.

Marijuana also is gaining support in the state, with 50 percent supporting the legalization of the drug for medicinal purposes, while 32 percent opposed. But there was less support for legalizing same-sex marriage, which was much more split with 40 percent in support, 31 percent against, and nearly just as many with no opinion.

The most divided issues, according to the survey, is whether Florida should allow for offshore drilling for oil and gas. In the survey, 44 percent supported such a move, while 39 percent were against. Oil drilling got its biggest support from men and residents older than 65, while younger people between 18 and 34 were mostly opposed.

Last year, many people across the country were still talking about George Zimmerman, who was acquitted in the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin, and whether Florida’s Stand Your Ground law was an effective law or not.

It seems the debate on that law remains quite divided with 41 percent opposed to repealing the law, 33 percent supporting a repeal, and 26 percent undecided.

African-Americans and people living in the Miami and Palm Beach areas were overwhelmingly for a repeal, while men, Caucasians, and those living in the northern part of the state want to keep the law the way it is.

Implementing a form of Common Core education standards, as developed by the National Governors Association, has earned 42 percent support and 28 percent opposition. However, about a third of those surveyed are still undecided, which means this is an issue that could shift in support in later years.

More than half of the parents surveyed with a child in school supported Common Core, while those with higher income and a college degree felt it was the wrong direction.

The survey sample was pulled from 120,000 randomly drawn phone listings, and has a sampling error of plus-2.2 percentage points.

To get more results from the annual survey, visit

Where Florida stands
The latest results from the University of South Florida’s Sunshine State Survey showed issues such as offshore oil drilling, repealing the Stand Your Ground law, legalizing same-sex marriage and implementing Common Core educational standards still divide people in Florida.

But what do they agree on?

Those surveyed say these will take the state in the right direction:

  • Do more to take care of returning military veterans — 91 percent
  • Make it easier for people to create new businesses — 87 percent
  • Pass stricter water quality regulations — 67 percent
  • Develop a high-speed rail system — 58 percent
  • Implement affordable health care exchanges — 55 percent

And this is where the state would head in the wrong direction:

  • Give more rights and assistance to undocumented immigrants — 58 percent
  • Start to collect sales tax on Internet purchases — 49 percent
  • Repeal the death penalty — 48 percent
  • Allow law enforcement to use drones — 45 percent
  • Allow more casino gambling — 43 percent

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