USF, FAU researchers share results of statewide public opinion survey on health policy issues

ORLANDO, Fla. — Just a few years after Florida voters approved medical marijuana, the state could soon approve recreational marijuana.


A new study of Florida voters shows that if recreational marijuana were to get on the ballot, it has a very good chance of passing with wide bipartisan support.

Marijuana is already legal in 23 states and Florida could become the 24th.

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“60-percent were supportive of recreational marijuana,” Florida Atlantic University Assistant Professor of Public Administration Dr. Kaila Witkowski said. “And if we’re looking at the upcoming ballot, we saw that there are enough signatures to put this issue on the ballot coming up by 2024, and it needs to pass with a 60-percent ratio there, so we see we’re kind of right on the money.”

Dr. Witkowski, along with a team of researchers from the University of South Florida, recently published a study of the state, looking at attitudes towards issues that intersect with medical questions.

In the study, support for recreational marijuana skewed toward Democrats and younger voters, but even Republicans were largely split down the middle on the issue.

“And if we look at it by age, we see 25 to 34, 35 to 44, 71-percent,” Dr. Witkowski explained. “As we start getting older- 55 and over- it becomes 44-percent.”

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While marijuana may be a bipartisan matter, the same study found that issues like the handling of COVID-19 in Florida remain deeply political.

With Florida seeing a summer spike in cases, the question becomes how will the state react?

“In this, we looked at about 11 different questions about COVID vaccines,” USF Assistant Professor of Public Administration Dr. Stephen Neely said.

Dr. Neely’s team found attitudes on the disease, as well as vaccines, swing dramatically depending on party affiliation.

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“The majority of people, three-quarters or more, are saying, oh yeah, we believe COVID vaccines are generally safe, that they’ll reduce your risk of hospitalizations and death,” Dr. Neely said. “But there’s still a lot of belief in these things, so more than half of people think they can get better immunity by getting sick…The CDC says no.”

While there was a party split on vaccines and COVID, the study did find bipartisan support for a more proactive approach for dealing with artificial intelligence.

The study found 73-percent of Floridians support a pause on artificial intelligence integration and implementation.

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