Saint Leo University survey research also tested the waters on three other ballot amendments that pose various questions about voting
ST. LEO, FL – The latest statewide survey by the Saint Leo University Polling Institute (polls.saintleo.edu) shows substantial support for increasing the minimum hourly wage to $15 by the year 2026.
Another ballot question drew broad support too—one that would slightly change the wording in the state constitution to say that only U.S. citizens may vote in federal, state, or local elections held in Florida—although its adoption would not actually change what happens now in the state.
These results stood out among the findings concerning four of the ballot initiatives that Florida voters are considering for the November 3 election. The latest survey was conducted online among 500 individuals between September 27 and October 2. Summaries of the four measures were shown to survey respondents for their reactions. Those that were included in the survey happened to have earned their place on the ballot through a lengthy process that allows citizens and citizen groups to pursue a policy change. (The Florida Legislature can also vote to put a question on the state ballot for voters to determine, and did so this year with two proposed changes to property-tax rules.)
Any ballot initiative in Florida must be approved by 60 percent of those voting before it can be enacted.
The Saint Leo University Polling Institute survey found that first ballot question (Amendment 1), about changing the state constitution to limit voting to “only U.S. citizens” (who meet residency, age, and registration requirements) had appeal. It was strongly supported by 50.4 percent of those polled, and somewhat supported by 21.8 percent, for a cumulative 72.2 percent.
Another 9.4 percent somewhat oppose the idea and 10 percent say they strongly opposed the idea. Those who said they were unsure amounted to 8.4 percent.
The League of Women Voters of Florida said a change is not necessary as the current wording of the state constitution sets the same citizenship standard for voting rights. Currently, the state constitution in Florida states that “every citizen” who meets the age, residency, and registration requirements can vote. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida also opposes the measure as unnecessary and said, “there are no movements to expand voting rights to noncitizens in Florida.”
Citizen Voters Inc., a group that has spent $8 million in cash and donated service to promote the wording change, has contended that state constitutions should say who cannot vote, not just who can vote. The group pointed to examples of some U.S. cities outside Florida, such as San Francisco, where noncitizen residents who are parents or guardians of school children can vote in school board elections. Some municipalities in Maryland afford noncitizen residents the right to vote in local elections. The group said there should be safeguards against such policies.
Saint Leo University Polling Institute Director Frank Orlando commented that, “Even though there is not likely to be any immediate practical changes in the passage of this amendment, it clearly has the support it needs to pass at this point. It has the advantage of making intuitive sense to a lot of voters, and if there are any unintended consequences, voters certainly don’t appear to be thinking that far down the road.’’
Amendment 2: Minimum wage
The current minimum wage in Florida is $8.56 an hour, and in 2019, it was $8.46 an hour. The state’s records show that the minimum wage has increased by small increments of less than $1 each year since 2005, when it increased to $6.15 from $5.15 the previous prior. There have been increases in most years since 2005, the highest being 42 cents in any one year.
An initiative on the ballot now would call for bigger increases with the result that the minimum wage would be $15 an hour by 2026. Specifically, the wage would go to $10 an hour on September 30, 2021, and increase by a dollar an hour each year until reaching $15 an hour.
The polling institute asked in its most recent survey whether respondents supported or opposed the initiative. The data show that 48 percent say they strongly support the idea and another 22.8 percent say they somewhat support the idea, generating 70.8 percent who say they support it to one degree or another.
On the other side, 14.2 percent say they somewhat oppose the idea, and 10 percent strongly oppose it. Those unsure amounted to 5 percent.
In the public discourse, proponents of the $15-an-hour minimum wage say that current levels of pay are not enough and even leave some people in poverty. Opponents of the initiative include businesses in the restaurant and grocery sectors, whose representatives say they cannot afford to pay such wages. If the increased pay level is mandated, they said they would end up cutting workers’ hours or even some jobs to manage their payroll costs.
Still, it looks like this will pass, said Orlando, the polling institute director. “Voters almost always vote in favor of minimum wage increases when they are on the ballot,” he said. “In a year with a less all-encompassing election at the top of the ballot, perhaps opponents could raise the funds to cast doubt over job losses due to an increase, but it doesn’t seem like that message will be able to break through.”
Amendment 3: Primary elections in Florida
The third proposal on the ballot would make a significant change in the way party primaries for elected state offices are held. Instead of the winner of the Democratic primary and the Republican primary facing each other in the general election, this suggests having just one primary for state races.
The candidates’ party affiliations would still be listed on the ballot. But any voter could vote in the primary, regardless of their party affiliation, or non-affiliation status. Currently only Democrats are allowed to vote in the Democratic primary, and Republicans in the GOP primary, and non-affiliated voters are not allowed to vote in either of the main parties’ primaries. The shift to open a primary to non-affiliated voters would potentially unlock millions of votes
When the results are counted, the top two vote-getters would be the candidates listed on the ballot in the general election, no matter which party they belong to. In cases where there were only two candidates for the primary, the primary would actually be canceled, and the two candidates would be placed on the general-election ballot.
If this plan is approved, this system would be put in place in 2024.
There is complicated discussion about this amendment, owing to its multiple parts.
A group calling itself “All Voters Vote Inc.” has been supporting this proposal. It has touted the main benefit of the plan as the new voting access it would afford nonparty-affiliated, registered voters. The group has spent about $6.8 million in cash and donated services promoting the idea.
The Democratic Party of Florida and the Republican Party of Florida oppose the idea, and each complained the wording on the ballot is misleading. The Republican party added that it dislikes the limit of candidates to two. It follows that if this were enacted, critics said, some voters would be unable to vote for candidates from their own parties in the general election.
Other groups, including the League of Women Voters of Florida, also oppose the amendment. The League said it likes the goal of an open primary to help non-affiliated voters but also disapproves of the provisions of limiting the eventual candidates to two. The League said that would limit African-American representation in government. That concern was shared by other groups, including the ACLU, which said the proposal would end up diluting the African-American vote.
The polling results indicate that 21.2 percent of those surveyed strongly support the idea and another 29.6 somewhat support it, for a sum of 50.8 percent showing some level of support.
The results also show that another 21.2 percent are unsure about it. That ties the sum that strongly support it and tops the15.8 percent who strongly oppose it. Another 12.2 percent somewhat oppose it.
Orlando said it is possible this amendment could seem attractive to enough people to pass, even though polling numbers put its support below the level needed for passage.
“This will be a much closer vote to follow on election night,” he said. “Voters may not realize how much of a shock this may be to the electoral system. While independents would benefit, partisans could conceivably be left out in the cold during a general election, with neither of the top two candidates representing their party.”
Amendment 4: New process proposed for future amendments
The polling institute asked how survey respondents regard the ballot initiative that suggests a new requirement once a proposed constitutional amendment is approved by 60 percent of voters, the current threshold for passage. This amendment proposes that the successful initiative be put on an additional ballot at a second general election and again win approval by at least 60 percent of the voters before the state is compelled to comply with the initiative.
A group supporting this, called “Keep Our Constitution Clean,” said a two-step measure would give voters an opportunity to make sure they know what they are voting for with ballot initiatives. The group’s attorney also said this would cut down on the number of “whimsical constitutional amendments.”
Some newspaper editorials opposed the idea, saying that this would make it too expensive for grassroots groups to get a measure enacted. The ACLU of Florida and League of Women Voters said they oppose the measure. The ACLU described the measure as an attempt to “stifle the choices Floridians have made to improve our democracy.”
In the Saint Leo survey results, 57.6 say they support the measure to some extent; 27.4 percent strongly support it and 30.2 percent somewhat support it.
The next biggest group of respondents were the 17.6 percent who say they were unsure.
Those against the idea included 8 percent who say they were somewhat opposed and 16.8 percent who say they were strongly opposed.
Orlando noted the polling results show the amendment almost has enough support to pass, which is a bit of a surprise.
“Given the rate that constitutional amendments tend to pass in Florida, it may seem counterintuitive that an amendment making it harder to see those votes make an impact enjoys as much support as it does,” Orlando said.
About the Poll
METHODOLOGY: This statewide survey was conducted from September 27 through October 2, among a base of 500 respondents, using an online instrument. The sample has an associated margin of error of +/- 4.5 percent at a 95 percent confidence for questions asked of all 500 respondents.
The Saint Leo University Polling Institute conducts its surveys using cutting-edge online methodology, which is rapidly transforming the field of survey research. The sample is drawn from large online panels, which allow for random selections that reflect accurate cross sections of all demographic groups. Online methodology has the additional advantage of allowing participants to respond to the survey at a time, place, and speed that is convenient to them, which may result in more thoughtful answers. The Saint Leo University Polling Institute develops the questionnaires, administers the surveys, and conducts analysis of the results. Panel participants typically receive a token incentive—usually $1 deposited into an iTunes or Amazon account—for their participation.
The Saint Leo University Polling Institute survey results about national and Florida politics, public policy issues, Pope Francis’ popularity, and other topics, can also be found here: http://polls.saintleo.edu. You can also follow the institute on Twitter @SaintLeoPolls.
Jo-Ann Johnston, Saint Leo University, University Communications firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 467-0843 (cell/text).
Mary McCoy, Saint Leo University, University Writer & Media Relations, email@example.com, (352) 588-7118 or cell (813) 610-8416.
About Saint Leo University
Saint Leo University is one of the largest Catholic universities in the nation, offering nearly 60 undergraduate and graduate-level degree programs to more than 19,500 students each year. Founded in 1889 by Benedictine monks, the private, nonprofit university is known for providing a values-based education to learners of all backgrounds and ages in the liberal arts tradition. Saint Leo is regionally accredited and offers a residential campus in the Tampa Bay region of Florida, 15 education centers in five states, and an online program for students anywhere. The university is home to more than 95,000 alumni. Learn more at saintleo.edu.