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USF Survey: Top Election Issues Are COVID, Economy

TAMPA BAY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - University of South Florida researchers are sharing new findings from a statewide presidential election survey. USF tells CW44 News At 10, the survey measures attitudes and opinions as we get closer to the general election.

CW44 News At 10's Andrea Alvarez spoke with a USF education official on Tuesday who shared his team of researchers are looking deeper into election result predictions and into what shapes your opinion before voting. Some of us research. Some of us are focusing on ethics. And some of us are just ready for change. Whatever our purpose is for voting in 2020, a team of researchers at USF has been keeping track of it. Associate Professor of Political Communication at USF, Joshua Scacco says, "What we're finding is that the election could potentially be shifting some very important ways in which people vote, but also ways in which people are worried and anxious about the state of government and the state of democracy in the United States."

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In a collaboration between the School of Public Affairs and the Department of Communication at the University of South Florida, researchers just released results [download complete pdf survey report here] from a statewide survey that measures our attitudes and opinions on the 2020 presidential election and the current political climate. "We've matched population demographics in our sample of 600 individuals who took this survey, we match them to things like age, and gender, and race and ethnicity, as well as geography," said Scacco.

But instead of a prediction poll focusing on what election day results will look like, Scacco says his team of researchers were much more interested in our deeper attitudes and opinions being formed. "The purpose of this study was to dig a bit deeper and to see what other attitudes are potentially being influenced," Scacco identifies some key findings in that research, "What we find in the poll is that the most important issues are tied to between the economy and between the coronavirus pandemic. Coming in third, here is, healthcare as well and this is consistent with other survey research that we have seen in Florida as well as nationwide."

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For this survey, 600 residents of Florida were surveyed via an online web-panel using Prodege MR, an industry-leading market research provider. The survey was fielded from October 10, 2020 through October 17, 2020, and the results are reported with a 95% confidence level and a margin of error of +/-4. Survey respondents were selected via a stratified, quota sampling approach in order to ensure a representative sample of Florida's population. Quotas for gender, age, race, and ethnicity were calculated based on population estimates provided by the Bureau of Economic and Business Research (BEBR) and the U.S. Census Bureau.

One survey result says 45% of respondents believe that their household finances will be significantly impacted by the outcome of the presidential election.  "Elections shape much more than attitudes about the candidates. Elections in a lot of ways shape how we relate to democracy, how we relate to our government, how we relate to those who represent us."

USF's 2020 Presidential Election Survey Results

Floridians See 2020 As a 'Very Important' Election. Almost 90% of Floridians surveyed say that 2020 will be "Very Important" when "compared to recent Presidential elections". This sentiment is equally shared by both Republicans and Democrats.

Presidential Election is a Significant Source of Stress and Worry. Just over 80% agree that they are "worried about the outcome of the 2020 Presidential election, while 56% say that the election "is a considerable source of stress" for them. Republicans and Democrats report roughly equal levels of election-related stress.

COVID-19 and the Economy Top the List of Important Issues. More than half of Floridians identified either "Jobs and the Economy" (28%) or the "COVID-19 pandemic" (26%) as the most important factor in their "choice when voting for President". The only other issue identified by more than 10% of respondents was "Healthcare" (16%). Republicans were significantly more likely to identify "Jobs and Economy" as the most important issue (46%), while Democrats were more likely to say the COVID-19 pandemic (35%).

Election Expected to Have Significant Impacts. A plurality of respondents (45%) believe that their household finances will be "significantly impacted by the outcome of the Presidential election", while nearly a two-thirds majority (64%) says the same about the COVID-19 pandemic. Democrats are more likely than Republicans to believe that the outcome will affect the COVID-19 pandemic, though majorities in both parties believe that it will (75% and 53% respectively).

A Large Move Toward Absentee Voting. A plurality of respondents (43%) indicated that they would vote "by mail-in or absentee ballot", while one-third (34%) said they would vote "in-person on election day." (By way of comparison, according to FL Secretary of State data, in 2016 only 28.7% of general election voters cast ballots by mail.) Others plan on voting "in-person at an early voting location" (23%). Based on the responses, Democrats are significantly more likely to vote by mail/absentee ballot, and Republicans are significantly more likely to vote in-person on Election Day

Significant Concerns Over Foreign Interference. Two-thirds of respondents indicated that they are either "Very Concerned" (27%) or "Somewhat Concerned" (40%) about the possibility of "foreign governments interfering in the 2020 Presidential election".

Some Small Concerns Over Fairness. A majority of Floridians are at least "Somewhat Confident" (49%) that "the 2020 election will be conducted fairly", though only 23% indicated that they are "Very Confident" of this, while just under a third (29%) were either "Not Very Confident" or "Not at All Confident".



Professor Scacco tells CW44 News At 10, he plans to involve students post-election with the survey results to study the statistics and more based on the 2020 elections. Stay with CW44 News At 10 for this developing story.

As an election reminder, the deadline  to request a vote-by-mail ballot is Saturday, October 24, 2020. Your County's Supervisor of Elections must receive your completed ballot by 7pm on Election Day.

CLEVELAND, OHIO - SEPTEMBER 29: U.S. President Donald Trump (R) and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden participate in the first presidential debate at the Health Education Campus of Case Western Reserve University on September 29, 2020 in Cleveland, Ohio. This is the first of three planned debates between the two candidates in the lead up to the election on November 3. (Photo by Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images)

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