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Floridians weigh in on environment and crime in Sunshine State Survey

Feeling safe in public places and concern about the environment are two critical concerns for Floridians, according to a new Sunshine State Survey on guns and the environment, administered by the University of South Florida and the A. C. Nielsen Company.

"It's clear that Floridians are increasingly worried about security in public places," said Susan MacManus, the survey director and professor at USF's College of Arts and Sciences. "They're also getting a little more critical about what the state has been doing about the environment."

Floridians believe the state's performance in protecting the environment has dropped, the survey found. "Excellent" and "good" ratings for the state's protection of the environment fell from 49 percent in 2012 to 44 percent in 2014. In 2014, "poor" ratings are three times higher than "excellent" ratings (20 percent versus 7 percent).

Residents who are 35 to 54 years old with a high school education or less gave the state higher points compared to older residents aged 55 to 64 years old and college graduates.

When asked to identify environmental problems facing Florida today, 39 percent called water-related problems the biggest concern. Nearly 20 percent cite pollution as the biggest environmental issue facing the state.

Residents in southeast Florida raised more concerns about air pollution, litter and the Everglades. Water-related problems were of the greatest concern to residents in the Naples and I-4 corridor area.

"There are a lot of differences across the state about which issues are seen as the most pressing," MacManus said. "There's not a lot of consensus about what is causing the problems and what the solutions are."

Regarding current gun laws, 46 percent of survey respondents said the laws are not restrictive enough, while 43 percent said the laws are about right.

Opinions on gun laws "are very clearly divided by race and gender and economic circumstance," MacManus said.

Respondents who said current laws are not restrictive enough included African Americans, Hispanics, women, college grads and residents of what the survey calls the Miami and Palm Beach media markets.
Whites who are 55-64 year old, males and residents of Naples and the North Florida region said current gun laws are about right. And 18-34 year olds, Hispanics and other minorities said current laws are too restrictive.

Asked to identify the biggest reason for the increase in mass shootings by young Americans, a new question in this year's survey, results showed that nearly two-thirds of Floridians attribute this upswing to either the lack of parental supervision or the lack of strict gun control laws.

A majority (54 percent) of respondents gives the state "excellent" or "good" ratings concerning how well the state secures the safety of adults in public places while 42 percent assigns it a "fair" or "poor" rating.

MacManus said women and minorities are growing more concerned about the lack of safety in public places.

Results of the survey are based on 1,875 telephone interviews conducted July 30, 2014 through August 15, 2014 with a random sample of adults, aged 18 and older, living in Florida households. The sampling error is + 2.2 percentage points, according to the survey website.

This is the first year USF has conducted the Sunshine State Survey, previously known as the Leadership Florida Survey, with the Nielsen Company, a Florida-based national survey research firm.

For more information, see The Data Release 4 Report at