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Environment One of Floridians' Top 5 Concerns

Photo Courtesy American Phytopathological Society
Citrus greening on a grapefruit

A new statewide poll shows environmental issues to be one of the top five issues facing Floridians. But not all parts of the state have the same concerns.

People in low-lying South Florida were concerned about sea level rise. Loss of natural land for wildlife topped the polls in Orlando and north Florida, where development continues to gobble up natural lands.

That's some of the results of the latest Sunshine State Survey, conducted annually by Nielsen and the University of South Florida.

"People forget the environment is one of Florida's biggest assets," says USF political science professor Susan MacManus. "People move here because they like what we have - the lakes, the rivers, the ocean - and increasingly you see people pushing for environmental issues. And I think you're going to see more and more out of the legislature."

In the Tampa Bay area, MacManus says there's a new concern.

"In the Tampa bay area, the number one concern is invasive species," she said. "When you think about it, we have that Asiatic pest that's ruining our large citrus industry, and also we've had trouble with the lionfish, which has gotten a lot of publicity. Both of those pests are invasive species that have really the awareness of people in the area."

MacManus says the polls indicate a backlash to state lawmakers, who earlier this year failed to allot any money for land preservation programs.

Here's an excerpt from the poll:

Floridians rate loss of natural lands for wildlife the top environmental issue

Question wording: “What is the biggest environmental problem facing Florida today?” (Order of response options randomized)

Note: Figures may not add to 100% due to rounding.

Source: Telephone survey of a random sample of 1,215 Floridians ages 18 and older conducted July 24-August 14, 2017. Margin of error ± 2.8%.

2017 USF-Nielsen Sunshine State Survey


Regional differences: Biggest environmental problems

Top environmental concerns vary by region:

Miami/Ft. Lauderdale: rising sea levels (30%); loss of natural land for wildlife (21%)

Palm Beach: rising sea levels (27%); loss of natural land for wildlife (18%)

Naples: water-related problems (36%); loss of natural land for wildlife (22%)

Tampa Bay: invasive species (19%); water-related (17%); loss of natural land (17%)

Orlando: loss of natural land for wildlife (22%); water-related (20%)

North Florida: loss of natural land for wildlife (23%); invasive species (22%)

Less-cited concerns also vary by region:

Hazardous waste/landfills: North Florida (16%), Tampa Bay (13%).

Oil drilling offshore:   Orlando (9%), Tampa Bay (9%).

Air pollution: Orlando (9%), Miami/Ft. Lauderdale (7%).

Salt water intrusion: Naples (10%).

Question wording: “What is the biggest environmental problem facing Florida today?” (Order of response options randomized)

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