Newest Survey Shows Shifting Opinion Landscape on Florida Ballot Measure

November 04, 2016

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News media including The Wall Street Journal, Politico, and Florida syndicated opinion columnist Paula Dockery have over the past week quoted the latest findings from the Saint Leo University Polling Institute (http://polls.saintleo.edu) in work on a suddenly controversial ballot measure up for approval in Florida in the November 8 election.

The ballot measure, which requires approval by 60 percent of voters, concerns solar power and consumers in the state. The controversy is about the intent and wording of the measure, referred to as Amendment 1. The measure would be added to the state constitution, if passed.

While sponsors have described it as a measure that establishes consumers’ rights to install solar panels for those who choose while providing financial safeguards for electricity customers who do not want solar power, it has drawn plenty of opposition. The debate is important not just to Florida’s millions of consumers, but across the country where states are interested in establishing policy for alternative energy production and use, accounting for broad news media interest.

The opponents of Amendment 1 say the actual wording is misleading because it sounds pro-solar, while passage could actually set the stage for a restrictive marketplace that makes solar-generated electricity unduly expensive and that benefits traditional utility companies. (See this release for a detailed explanation: http://polls.saintleo.edu/proposed-florida-constitutional-amendment-on-solar-power-facing-a-changed-landscape-among-voters-new-saint-leo-poll-finds/.)

As journalists have covered the debate, they have turned to the Saint Leo University Polling Institute’s work to gauge public sentiment. The polling institute first began exploring public sentiment on the topic in June, and was able to chart what happened over time.  

Florida Ballot Measure

June 2016 support – likely voters

August 2016 support – likely voters

September 2016 support – likely voters

 

October 2016 support – likely voters

Grants Florida residents the right to own or lease equipment that produces solar energy for personal use – Amendment 1

77.3%

81.4%

84.0 %

59.8%

          

As the summer went on, opponents of the measure used social media and other means to make the case that the second sentence of the proposed amendment is too problematic to accept. The second sentence reads: “State and local governments shall retain their abilities to protect consumer rights and public health, safety and welfare, and to ensure that consumers who do not choose to install solar are not required to subsidize the costs of backup power and electric grid access to those who do.”

For the special, pre-election poll conducted online among likely voters (numbering 1,028 in Florida) between October 22 and October 26, an additional, clarifying question was asked of respondents who had indicated their support of the measure.  

 

Here are some additional facts regarding Amendment 1:  you already have the right to own solar equipment, the amendment may restrict your ability to lease solar equipment from third-party vendors, it could restrict the practice of net metering where excess energy is produced by solar cells and sent back to the grid to offset our own costs, and the campaign to pass Amendment 1 has strong support from Florida utility companies.

 

 

Please indicate below if you continue to support Amendment 1 or the reasons (select as many as apply)that caused you to change your mind and oppose Amendment 1. 

 

 

I continue to support Amendment 1Number = 364 who answered this way

 

 

I already have the right to own solar equipmentNumber = 85

 

 

The amendment may restrict my ability to lease solar equipment from third-party vendorsNumber = 119

 

 

It may restrict the practice of sending back excess energy produced for an offset to my costsNumber = 131

 

 

Amendment 1 is supported by Florida utility companiesNumber = 110

 

 

When the results were tabulated, only 35.4 percent were in favor. “Our data shows that the more the public knows about the possible consequences of Amendment 1, the less they like it,” said Frank Orlando, director of the Saint Leo University Polling Institute and political science instructor.

Various news media have also been interested in the polling institute’s survey results on Floridians’ attitude toward medical marijuana, covered in another ballot measure. This issue is up for consideration—in various forms—in a number of other states in November, so news outlets in many places are interested.  A marijuana measure came before voters in Florida two years ago and was narrowly defeated.

So proponents created new wording for the November election that they say proposes a common-sense solution to help people suffering a variety of ailments that cause chronic pain. Opponents dislike legalizing the drug, note that it is prohibited under federal law, and worry about creating unmanageable social problems. Results indicate the 2016 outcome will favor proponents.

 

Florida Ballot Measures

June 2016 support – likely voters

August 2016 support – likely voters

September 2016 support – likely voters

 

October 2016 support – likely voters

Grants the right to use marijuana for the treatment of certain ailments when recommended by a physician – Amendment 2

65.1%

67.8%

68.8%

71.3%

 

Orlando, the polling director, commented, “We've shown Amendment 2 to be consistently above the 60 percent threshold. The only important question left there is turnout. Can Amendment 2 backers get their voters to the polls in a way they couldn't in 2014?”

Two other proposed measures are also on the Florida ballot. The polling institute website provides survey data on their acceptance, as well.

“Some of these ballot measures will have a greater impact on the daily life of voters in Florida than the senate and presidential race,” Orlando said (in referring specifically to the U.S. Senate). “It's important to take the pulse of the public and draw attention to these issues.”