The University of South Florida has released its annual Sunshine Survey, in cooperation with Nielson, an international leader in providing insights and information into what consumers watch and buy. USF collects the data and Nielson helps in perspective.
Dr. Susan McManus runs the program at USF and is one of the nation’s leading political experts.
She says that this type of outreach is important because “Florida is over-polled when it comes to politics, but under-surveyed on policy and civic engagement.” The findings should interest many sectors of our community, but it is important to note — especially in answers to gun law questions — the survey was completed prior to the mass shooting in Las Vegas.
The survey found:
n Floridians rate the state good or excellent by 54 percent for the safety of children at school and 51 percent for adults in public places. However, 64 percent rated Florida fair or poor for assistance to the mentally disabled.
n On gun laws, the state is conflicted. Forty-nine percent say restrictiveness is “about right,” while 40 percent say they are not sufficiently restrictive. Eight percent believe them to be too restrictive.
Men are more satisfied with status quo than women, 54 percent to 44 percent. Whites and Hispanics were more comfortable with gun laws than blacks, 53 percent to 31 percent.
Geographically the Orlando area support for gun laws was the higher, at 57 percent. It’s interesting that it was ground zero for the Pulse Nightclub shootings. North Florida was just behind at 56 percent.
Broken down by age and gender, of those saying gun laws are not sufficiently restrictive, women are 47 percent, seniors over 80 are at 48 percent, blacks are 57 percent and those unemployed were 50 percent. Survey analysts say their research shows that women are more attentive to gun violence, especially in the media. Seniors are more vulnerable to crime than the younger population. Blacks are more likely to worry about gun violence in their own neighborhoods, ditto for the out of work, termed “Less educated.”
n What, to us, was most interesting is how respondents viewed the mentally disabled population and how Florida takes care of them. Thirty-four percent said it was poor, 31 percent rated it fair, 20 percent believed service to be good and 4 percent answered excellent. Twelve percent did not have an opinion.
St. Johns County’s ability to respond to its mentally ill population is well intended but short on beds. Our local mental health professionals know this, Sheriff David Shoar sees it because these residents end up in his jail when community intervention falls short.
It is not an easy problem to solve, predominately because serving the population in meaningful ways is expensive. Counties are being left holding more and more of the tab as federal dollars continue to be spread thin and state dollars dry up.
The survey seems to indicate more concern for mental health than gun violence.
We wonder if the real problem doesn’t touch both issues together.
For complete survey access go to: sunshinestatesurvey.org/results/2017.