Voter Poll Takes Pulse on Tuition, Other Education Issues

Respondents strongly opposed variations in what universities charge.


Published: Thursday, December 20, 2012 at 11:04 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, December 20, 2012 at 11:04 p.m.

TALLAHASSEE | Florida voters are overwhelmingly against charging college tuition based on what people study, skeptical that degrees can be offered for $10,000 and strongly against setting different educational goals based on race, a new poll has found.

The poll by Quinnipiac University and released Thursday also found that Florida voters may be starting to change their minds on same-sex marriage and are less enthusiastic about marijuana legalization than people in other parts of the country.

The bulk of the poll dealt with educational issues that are at least suggested as being in play in Florida — while there currently isn't a strong move on gay marriage or marijuana.

The poll asked voters about a recent state Board of Education "strategic plan" proposal that drew criticism. The plan set out interim goals for achievement for students but set lower goals for African-American students in an effort to acknowledge that many of them start farther behind their white counterparts. Critics jumped on the plan — which Gov. Rick Scott also criticized — saying that it sent the message that minorities couldn't achieve as well as whites.

Florida voters said by a 71 percent to 7 percent margin that there shouldn't be differing goals for students.

Registered voters also strongly opposed, by a 66 percent to 26 percent margin, charging lower tuition to college students who major in high tech, math and science subjects in an effort to boost the workforce in those areas. Voters also were strongly against, by 73 percent to 16 percent, allowing some public universities to charge higher tuition than others.

Those polled also are skeptical of Scott's challenge to the state's colleges to offer some four-year degrees for $10,000. Only 29 percent think it is very likely or somewhat likely to occur, though several colleges have said they are willing to try.

Two high-profile national issues that are less prominent in Florida also were polled.

Respondents opposed same- sex marriage by a 10-point margin back in May, but in the poll released Thursday, they were nearly evenly divided, with 43 percent in favor of allowing gay marriage and 45 percent opposed. Voters under 29 years old, however, overwhelmingly support the idea, by a 66 percent to 23 percent margin.

Florida voters oppose legalizing personal use of marijuana by a 52 percent to 42 percent margin — while nationally, respondents say they support it by about the same margin.

Respondents also think state workers should have 401(k)- style retirement plans only and no defined-benefit plans. The poll found 53 percent of voters support offering state workers only a defined-contribution plan, which is similar to many plans in the private sector.

The poll was taken December 11 through 17 and surveyed 1,261 registered Florida voters with live interviewers calling land lines and cell phones. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.8 percentage points.

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