SAINT LEO, FL – The Saint Leo University Polling Institute found considerable support in its March survey of Floridians for allowing state residents to use marijuana for medical reasons, and for allowing sales of surplus solar power by consumers with solar panels through new laws.

The polling institute anticipates continued high interest in the topics—even after the conclusion of the Florida Legislature’s session on March 11—and so measured public sentiment on the matters in its online poll of 540 Florida residents, conducted from March 13 to March 17, 2016.

In fact, Florida voters will be asked on their ballots in the general election in November 2016 whether the state constitution should be altered to allow residents to legally use marijuana for certain medical ailments. It would take 60 percent of the voters to approve for the measure to be enacted.

Governor Rick Scott on March 25 did sign a bill passed during the session that allows terminally ill patients to use marijuana to ease physical suffering, but the parameters for legal use under the new statute are much more limited than the broader ballot measure that voters will consider. The current survey indicates popular sentiment in favor of the spirit of the ballot measure.

Issue Statements PresentedTo Survey Respondents Strongly Agree –       % Somewhat Agree –      % Total Strongly & Somewhat Agree – % Total
Strongly SomewhatDisagree – %
Don’t Know –     %
The Florida Legislature should approve medical marijuana for Florida resident use 42.8 25.4 68.1 27.6(10.4+17.2)  4.3
Florida residents, with solar panels or other means to collect electricity, should be permitted by new laws to sell surplus electricity to the grid or electric companies 46.6 33.1 79.6 9.5(6.7 + 2.8)  10.9


In spite of that support, opponents can be expected to advocate for the continued restrictions on marijuana use as the election draws closer, said Frank Orlando, instructor of political science at Saint Leo University. The level of voter turnout may be influential in results, he added. A constitutional amendment proposed in the 2014 election in favor of legalizing medical marijuana failed to get enough support to pass, but the margin was narrow, he noted. “In 2016, proponents of the legislation can count on a presidential electorate that is younger than in 2014, and it appears as though younger voters approve of the amendment at higher rates than the public overall.”

As for the potential sale by residents of excess solar power, on the surface, the idea seems to enjoy broad public support. Consumers and small businesses who have solar power panels or would like to, want to be able to sell excess solar power legally, and presumably without hurdles that make the such transactions difficult or impractical.

This comes in the context of advocacy in Florida to create a more open and accessible solar marketplace. The position of advocates is that solar power helps the environment, and the sale of customers’ excess power would help defray their own power consumption costs. Groups that are proponents of greater and simpler market access to solar have said they are not getting enough support in the Florida Legislature, and they blame the influence of traditional utilities.

In the debate over the best ways to develop a solar marketplace, another argument has been made that customers who do not switch to solar generation—who continue to purchase from power companies and the traditional electrical grid—could be left with higher costs for maintaining the grid. That would create unfair burdens on lower-income consumers, proponents warn.

The discussion is still active: Proponents of a broader solar market are seeking enough petition signatures to place on the 2018 ballot an amendment proposal to expand solar access.

“While the issue does maintain strong support, you can count on a strong counter response from utility companies once the issue does make the ballot,” Orlando predicted.

Media contacts:

Jo-Ann Johnston, Saint Leo University, University Communications or (352) 588-8237 or (352) 467-0843 (cell/text)
Mary McCoy, Saint Leo University, University Communications or (352) 588-7118 or (813) 610-8416 (cell/text)

More About Our Research

METHODOLOGY: All surveys were conducted using an online survey instrument. The sample was comprised of 540 adult residents of Florida. The poll has a plus or minus 4.5 percent margin of error.

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 dollar 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 be found here: You can also follow the institute on Twitter @saintleopolls.

About Saint Leo University

Saint Leo University ( is a regionally accredited, liberal-arts-based institution known for an inclusive Catholic heritage, enduring values, and a capacity for innovation. The school was chartered in 1889 by Catholic Benedictine monks in rural Pasco County, FL, making Saint Leo the first Catholic college in the state. Saint Leo provides access to education to people of all faiths, emphasizing the Benedictine philosophy of balanced growth of mind, body, and spirit.

The university welcomes learners from all generations and backgrounds, from civilian occupations and the armed forces, and from across the country and more than 60 nations around the world. Saint Leo’s nearly 16,000 undergraduate and graduate students may elect to study at the beautiful University Campus in Florida, at more than 40 teaching locations in seven states, or online from any location. The university’s degree programs range from the associate to the doctorate. Through these rich offerings, Saint Leo develops principled leaders for a challenging world.

Saint Leo University boasts nearly 80,000 alumni in all 50 states, Washington, DC, five U.S. territories, and 72 countries.