Floridians Back Florida Forever Funding

TALLAHASSEE, FL 4/6/2009: The vast majority of Florida voters support funding for Florida Forever at current levels, even in the current economic climate, according to a new statewide survey. The poll — released publicly today, “Florida Forever Day” at the State Capitol — was conducted by the national survey firm of Public Opinion Strategies for The Nature Conservancy, Trust for Public Land, and the Florida Forever Coalition.

When voters are told about Florida Forever, they are overwhelmingly positive toward the program. Respondents were told that “Florida Forever was created in 1999 by Governor Jeb Bush and the state legislature, and is funded through fees on real estate transactions. Florida Forever has preserved over six hundred thousand acres of land for water resources, natural areas, wildlife habitat, and parks.” Fully 81 percent indicated they have a positive impression of Florida Forever, with 44 percent having a very favorable impression of it. A mere 13 percent had an unfavorable impression.

Two-thirds of voters come down on the side of maintaining funding for Florida Forever. Respondents were told that the state legislature is currently debating what should or should not be funded in the 2009 state budget, and that “in order to continue the Florida Forever program at the same level of funding it has had over the last ten years, the state legislature would need to allocate $12.4 million from the fees on real estate transactions in the current budget.” Sixty-seven percent said they support the state legislature maintaining the funding, with only 29 percent opposed. The intensity of this support was twice as high as opposition, with 38 percent indicating they strongly supported maintaining funding, and just 17 percent strongly opposed.

Support for Florida Forever is broad-based and wide-spread. Majorities of many key voter sub-groups indicated support for maintaining funding for Florida Forever. Support was exactly the same with voters of all partisan affiliations, as 67 percent of Republicans, 67 percent of Independents and 67 percent of Democrats supported maintaining funding. At least three in five voters in every region of the state supported continued funding. Support stands at 65 percent in both north and south Florida, and 70 percent in Central Florida. Voters in major areas of the state were consistently supportive of funding this program:

Tampa Bay:73 percent support
West Palm Beach:73 percent support
Jacksonville:71 percent support
Miami/Ft. Lauderdale:67 percent support
Orlando:66 percent support
Panhandle:60 percent support

Seventy percent of rural voters and 67 percent of those in urban and suburban areas are solid in their support.

A vote in favor of Florida Forever is a positive factor for voters when considering the records of their state legislators. More than three-in-five voters (63 percent) said they would be more likely to vote for their state legislator if he or she supports continuing funding for Florida Forever. Fully 28 percent said they would be much more likely to support such a legislator. A legislator’s support for maintaining funding for Florida Forever is particularly compelling to a number of key swing voter sub-groups, including Independent women (38 percent), senior women (34 percent), moderate Republicans (33 percent) Independents (32 percent), and Hispanics (32 percent).

“It is essential to keep the continuity of the Florida Forever program intact,” said Jeff Danter, Florida director of The Nature Conservancy. “Negotiations are under way every day, between landowners of important lands and program partners, including counties, and conservation success in Florida is at risk if there is nothing in the pipeline.”

“Floridians have consistently supported preserving the places that make our state special,” said Greg Chelius, Florida state director of the Trust for Public Land. “From the turquoise waters of the Keys to the great pine forests of Central Florida, to the neighborhood parks and trails that create oases of calm in our urban areas, these places are vitally important to the people who call Florida home. Even in these uncertain times – and maybe especially so – Florida voters want to make sure they are protected.”

The Florida Forever Coalition is made up of more than 125 organizations that support conservation, environmental protection, and recreation needs across Florida. For more information, go to www.supportfloridaforever.org. The poll of 600 voters was commissioned by the Florida Forever Coalition and conducted by Public Opinion Strategies on March 18-19 and 21. The margin of error associated with a sample of this type is + 4.0%.