TALLAHASSEE — If Florida voters seem eager to throw incumbents out of office this year, they appear even more likely to vote down state constitutional amendments.
Proposals to loosen Florida’s class size caps, to limit the Legislature’s power to protect lawmakers’ seats and to put some building and development questions on local ballots all appear headed toward defeat, according to a new Miami Herald/St. Petersburg Times/Bay News 9 poll.
Almost one in three voters is undecided on most of the ballot questions, the poll shows, but pollsters warn that most people are only now starting to examine the issues.
“The language for all of these is a little bit dense, so it seems natural to me that people are not sure how they will vote,” said Julia Clark, pollster for Ipsos Public Affairs, which conducted the survey.
The amendment proposals with the best chance of passing are 5 and 6, which would prohibit state lawmakers from drawing legislative or congressional districts that favor incumbents or political parties.
The pair of amendments, which were included in the same poll question, are viewed favorably by 45 percent of likely voters. But that number is well short of the 60 percent needed to amend the Florida Constitution.
Gaining another 15 points from the 31 percent of undecided voters would be “a tough road,” the pollsters said.
“The trend has been getting more favorable, but it’s been doing so fairly slowly,” Ipsos pollster Chris Jackson said.
The telephone survey of 801 registered voters, including 577 likely voters, was conducted Oct. 15-19 for The Miami Herald, St. Petersburg Times, Bay News 9 and Central Florida News 13. The poll was conducted by Ipsos, a Washington, D.C.-based independent, nonpartisan research company. The margin of error among likely voters is 4.1 percentage points.
Amendments are struggling in the polls because voters have not read the ballot questions. “People really don’t know what the heck these things are,” Jackson said.
Other findings from the poll:
n Amendment 4, which would make changes to local growth management plans subject to voter approval, was opposed by 36 percent of likely voters and supported by 33 percent. But the amendment also has the most undecided voters: 32 percent.
n Amendment 8, which would loosen the class-size limits that voters approved in 2002, is favored by 43 percent of likely voters, with 40 percent opposed and 17 percent undecided. The proposal evenly splits Republicans (44-44) and Democrats (42-42), but independent voters oppose the change, 46 percent to 32.
Clark warned the numbers might shift as the campaigns increase their advertising budgets in the final days before the Nov. 2 election.
“The spending is often done at the last minute,” Clark said. “These campaigns . . . spend furiously in the few weeks before the election.”
The citizens group that put Amendments 5 and 6 on the ballot, Fair Districts for Florida, has amassed a war chest of almost $7 million, according to campaign finance reports filed Friday.
Most of the money has come in six-figure checks from liberal special interests including teachers’ unions, trial attorneys and America Votes, a get-out-the-vote group largely financed by billionaire businessman George Soros.
Opposing the amendments is the group Protect Your Vote, which raised $1.1 million from conservative groups, including a $750,000 check from the Republican Party of Florida on Oct. 7.
The richest campaign, according to recent finance reports, is the $10.5 million collected by the group hoping to defeat Amendment 4, Citizens for Lower Taxes and a Stronger Economy.
The Florida Association of Realtors has spent $4.3 million, with Pulte Homes, Lennar Homes and KB Homes combining to spend another $1.2 million to defeat the measure that would make changes to local growth management plans subject to voter approval.
Florida Hometown Democracy, which collected voter signatures to put Amendment 4 on the ballot, has raised $2.2 million for its cause, including $200,000 from NetQuote insurance co-founder Christopher Findlater of Miami Beach.
Findlater has created his own political group, known as the Hometown Democracy Fund, to which he recently gave $2 million.
The group Vote No on 8 has raised $1.2 million, including $1 million from America’s Families First, a liberal fundraising group based in Washington, D.C.
The advertising campaign in support of Amendment 8 is funded by a political committee known as Protect Our Constitution, run by Florida Chamber of Commerce President Mark Wilson.