The survey of residents was conducted during the state legislative session
ST. LEO, FL – Though Florida lawmakers have decided that public school classroom teachers may—with district approval—carry firearms at work, results just in from a Saint Leo University Polling Institute (https://polls.saintleo.edu) survey suggest more people dislike the idea than approve of it. But neither side showed a majority of supporters in the survey results, and now more grassroots-level discussions are expected to occur around the state.
During the eight-day period from April 22 through April 29, the polling institute asked 500 respondents from all around Florida about the policy:
For safety and protective reasons, do you support arming trained teachers in public schools?
The Florida House, meanwhile, voted by 65-47 on May 1 to approve an update to its previous “guardian program.” The body first voted on the program in 2018 in response to the Parkland (FL) school mass shooting that February. That initial step allowed districts to permit some personnel, such a as sports coaches and administrators, to go through training so that they could carry weapons on school sites. Not all the districts in Florida adopted that measure, but the Florida Senate and then the Florida House broadened its provisions in the legislative session that just ended.
The upgrade means that if local school districts approve, classroom teachers who satisfy police-type training, drug screening, and psychiatric evaluations can have a gun in school. The supporters of the idea said this can add more lines of defense inside schools against potential shooters. Critics of the bill contended more guns would make schools more dangerous. Governor Ron DeSantis has indicated he will sign the bill, and that means the choice of whether to implement this goes directly to Florida school districts. (Some districts already made a decision not to opt into this program.)
In the Saint Leo survey of Florida residents, those who agreed in highest numbers with arming trained teachers were also politically conservative; among that group, 65.7 percent agreed. Moderates and liberals were mostly on the other side of the issue; 26.6 percent of moderates and 26.2 percent of liberals agreed with the idea.
“Although there’s a slight preference in our findings against this measure, it’s not a slam dunk,” said Frank Orlando, director of the Saint Leo University Polling Institute and a political scientist who teaches at the university. The overall findings of 46 percent against and 39 percent in favor have a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.
“Different counties and school districts will deal with this differently,” Orlando continued. “This is an issue that may make voters more interested in school board and superintendent elections (depending on the county), as candidates will need to go on record with their opinions on implementing the law.’’
Dr. Joanne Roberts, who trains future teachers and administrators at the Saint Leo University Gainesville (FL) Education Center, agreed that the issue is now “as local as it can get.” She, too, expects the decision of whether and how to implement the new law “to intensify interest in school board races.” All school districts are required to elect boards, she noted, whose members serve staggered terms.
Based on past experience in working with various districts, and as a former school principal herself, Roberts said she imagines that districts in more rural and politically conservative areas will be the most likely to consider allowing teachers to have firearms.
About the Poll
METHODOLOGY: This national survey was conducted from April 22 through April 29, 2019, among a base of 500 respondents in Florida, using an online instrument. The Florida poll has a +/- 4.5 percent margin of error at a 95 percent confidence level (on a composite basis).
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.
Media contacts: Jo-Ann Johnston, Saint Leo University, University Communications firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 588-8237 or (352) 467-0843 (cell/text).
Mary McCoy, Saint Leo University, University Communications email@example.com or (352) 588-7118 or (813) 610-8416 (cell/text).
More About Saint Leo University
Saint Leo University (www.saintleo.edu) is a modern Catholic teaching university that is firmly grounded in the liberal arts tradition and the timeless Benedictine wisdom that seeks balanced growth of mind, body, and spirit. The Saint Leo University of today is a private, nonprofit institution that creates hospitable learning communities wherever students want to be or need to be, whether that is a campus classroom, a web-based environment, an employer’s worksite, a military base, or an office park. Saint Leo welcomes people of all faiths and of no religious affiliation, and encourages learners of all generations. The university is committed to providing educational opportunities to the nation’s armed forces, veterans, and their families. Saint Leo is regionally accredited to award degrees ranging from the associate to the doctorate, and the faculty and staff guide all students to develop their capacities for critical thinking, moral reflection, and lifelong learning and leadership.
The university remains the faithful steward of the beautiful lakeside University Campus in the Tampa Bay region of Florida, where its founding monks created the first Catholic college in the state in 1889. Serving nearly 12,000 students, Saint Leo has expanded to downtown Tampa, to other sites in Florida and beyond, and maintains a physical presence in seven states. The university provides highly respected online learning programs to students nationally and internationally. More than 93,000 alumni reside in all 50 states, in Washington, DC, in three U.S. territories, and in 76 countries.