Life and politics from the Sunshine State's best city

New survey shows Floridians support Medicaid expansion, medical marijuana and same-sex marriage

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With a Republican governor and overwhelmingly GOP-led Legislature, Florida is being well served by its legislators in Tallahassee, right?

Not exactly.

A new Public Policy Polling survey released on Thursday shows that 58 percent of Floridians want Medicaid expansion. Independents support it by 57 percent, while there is a 12-point difference among Republicans (33-45).

Despite those numbers, the Florida House remains obstinate in refusing to try to work with the state Senate on a hybrid expansion plan. Such a program would allow the state to draw down federal dollars to provide healthcare coverage for up to a million Floridians currently going without coverage.

St. Petersburg state Sen. Jeff Brandes proposed a medical marijuana bill for this legislative session, but the odds of that becoming law don’t look promising. Organizers with Amendment Two, the constitutional amendment that fell just short of the 60 percent needed to become law last year, are working on collecting signatures for a similar measure to go on the ballot in 2016.

PPP shows that 58 percent support the measure currently, the same percentage that favored it at the polls in 2014. But PPP says the odds are good if it makes it to the ballot next year, it will be successful.

“With a younger and more progressive presidential year electorate it seems like it would have a pretty good chance at hitting 60 percent support on the second go-around,” they write.

Same sex marriage became the law of the land in Florida in early January, the protestations of social conservatives like John Stemberger notwithstanding. Eighty-one percent of Floridians tell PPP that it’s either had a positive impact on their lives or no impact at all, with just 20 percent claiming that it’s affected them negatively.

Despite his re-election last fall, Rick Scott continues to be underwater when it comes to his personal approval rankings. Public Policy Polling says that 42 percent approve of his job performance, 46 percent disapprove. If he were to run against Bill Nelson for U.S. Senate in 2018, Nelson right now has a slight lead, 47-43 percent.

In the aftermath of Charlie Crist’s narrow loss to Scott last November, a member of Crist’s campaign team, Kevin Cate, wrote an op-ed suggesting that the state move its gubernatorial election to the same year as the presidential contest, since so many more (Democratic) voters participate in those election years.

PPP says that 49 percent of voters say they would support moving gubernatorial elections in the state to presidential election years, compared to only 27 percent opposed to that concept. Democrats (57-21), independents (51-28), and Republicans (41-33) all say they’d favor such a shift in when elections are held.

In a survey on the state’s favorite baseball teams, the Tampa Bay Rays are only the fourth most popular franchise in Florida. Two out-of-state teams, the Atlanta Braves and the New York Yankees, top the list of favorite MLB franchises as the 2015 regular season soon commences.

Seventeen percent of Floridians tell PPP that the Braves remain their favorite team. Undoubtedly much of that support comes from the fact that until 22 years ago, the Braves were the only baseball team playing in the Southeastern U.S.

The New York Yankees come in at 14 percent, with much of that love coming from former New Yorkers who dot the state, especially South Florida. The Yankees also train in downtown Tampa, the only MLB franchise that conducts their spring training in another local team’s market. The Miami Marlins are third most popular with 12 percent, and then come the Rays at 11 percent.

In college football, it’s a neck-and-neck battle for state supremacy between the Florida Gators and the Florida State Seminoles, with UF taking a slight 23-22 percent lead. UCF and the University of Miami are tired at 10 percent, USF at 8 percent, Florida Atlantic at 4 percent, and Florida International gets a lowly 1 percent.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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