As Florida voters prepare to go to the polls, a non-scientific survey by public media partners WUSF and WMFE could shed some light into what’s driving voter decisions.
The survey - collected over a four-month period late last year - shows that voters in different counties along the poltiically important Interstate 4 Corridor have different priorities this election.
More than 800 people took the survey, which was designed to helping inform how the stations cover issues that matter most to voters along the I-4 corridor. The non-scientific survey focused on voters from Sarasota and the Tampa Bay region, to the Central Florida region that includes Orlando, Daytona Beach and the Villages.
Respondents did lean white, Democratic, female and older. But the results are still illuminating.
The survey asked about hot-button issues such as abortion, immigration and criminal justice. It asked about economic issues, like health care, the environment, education and the minimum wage.
Gun policy, foreign policy and military or veteran issues were there too, as was a question asking how President Donald Trump leadership is weighing on voters.
Overall, across the I-4 corridor, health care and the environment are the top issues. But results start to vary when party and location are considered. For example, start by looking at Democrats across the corridor in the map below. Scroll over each countiy to see the population, number of registered Democrats and the top three issues of people living there who took the survey.
Health care is the top issue for Democrats in Pinellas, Polk, Seminole and Volusia Counties. That could bode well for either of the top two Democratic candidates still in the race: Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders or former Vice President Joe Biden. Sanders has pushed Medicare for All, while Biden has advocated expanding Obamacare. In our survey, both options were nearly equally popular.
Violeta Burgos is one voter who already cast her vote for Biden.
“When I came here, I was Republican,” Burgos said. “I’m very worried about the Social Security and Medicare, but I don’t believe in Medicare for All. I believe that we need changes or put some effort in and develop Obamacare.”
Elsewhere in the region, survey respondendents put different issues as their number one. More Democrats in Osceola County, for example, said gun policy was a bigger issue than anywhere else along the corridor. The environment was the top issue in Orange and Hillsborough Counties, while Donald Trump was a top issue in Polk and Volusia counties.
There are differences too when looking at registered Independents and people who don't identify with the major parties. Scroll over the counties below to see its population, the number of registered voters who don't identify as Democrat or Republican, and the top three issues of people who took the survey.
County results also show how different issues arise across the corridor. Topics such as foreign policy and immigration become more important in Pinellas and Volusia County. In Osceola County, transportation and infrastructure rank high.
And health care continues to appear as a top issue for Independents. Take Phyllis Whitney, a retired CPA and business manager who lives in Tampa. She said she’s never been affiliated with a political party but she tends to vote left.
She’s has coverage through Medicare Advantage and loves it, but health care is still her top issue.
“I have a daughter and grandchildren. My daughter’s on Obamacare and my grandchildren are on Medicaid,” Whitney said.
Finally, the top issues for Republicans along the corridor can be seen below. Scroll over individual counties to see its population, the number of registered Republicans and the top three issues of people who took the survey.
Health care remains a significant election issue for Republicans, showing up in the top three in all counties except Polk, Orange and Osceola counties. It is the top topic for Republicans in Volusia County as well.
But overall, immigration becomes the top issue in Pinellas, Seminole and Orange Counties. Take Brandon Ryerson, 22, a biomedical science student at the University of South Florida. Immigration is a top issue for him.
“I would say out of all of them right now, I would probably say that Trump is the closest, but you know, I would also have to do more research,” Ryerson said. “I don’t mind, like, Joe Biden even has some great ideas on immigration and stuff like that.”
This story is part of I-4 Votes, a collaboration between the NPR stations in Tampa and Orlando. The project will spend 2020 focusing on the issues that matter to voters as they decide who they want to be President of the United States.