FSC Students Conduct Voter Poll in Advance of State’s Presidential Primary

Feb 25, 2020

by Greg Williams
Publications Editor

The Center for Polling and Policy Research at Florida Southern College recently conducted a live telephone survey of registered Democratic voters in Florida who are likely to vote in the state’s March 17 primary. This statewide survey of voter preferences in the presidential race took place over five nights, Feb. 17-21, and was conducted by 13 FSC students, most of whom are political science majors.

Dr. Zachary Baumann, assistant professor of political science and director of Florida Southern’s Center for Polling and Policy Research, said many of the students who conducted the survey worked four hours a night over the course of the polling process.

“They made thousands of phone calls within the state of Florida, resulting in responses from 313 likely Democratic voters,” said Dr. Baumann, who added that being involved in this type of voter survey “gives the students an opportunity to observe what polling looks like firsthand, and allows them to gain experience in a field they may be interested in entering.”

Respondents were asked which candidate they would select if the election were held that day, with poll results revealing a tight contest between candidates Michael Bloomberg, at 23 percent, and Joe Biden, at 22 percent, with 18 percent indicating their support for Bernie Sanders. Elizabeth Warren was favored by 12 percent of survey respondents, with 9 percent supporting Pete Buttigieg, and 5 percent naming Amy Klobuchar as their preferred candidate.

The survey, which reached these likely voters via mobile phones and landlines, also asked respondents about their confidence in supporting their preferred candidate on Election Day. Among those who named Bloomberg as their first choice, 51 percent said they definitely plan to vote for him, 18 percent said they probably would vote for him, and 31 percent said they were leaning toward a vote for him. Among Biden's supporters, the survey found 36 percent definitely planning to vote for the former Vice President, with 22 percent probably voting for him, and 42 percent leaning toward voting for him. Finally, among those who named Sanders as their preferred candidate, 45 percent said they definitely planned to vote for him, with 15 percent probably voting for him, and 40 percent leaning toward a vote for him.

The high percent of Warren backers who said they definitely or probably would vote for her is of note in this survey as well, with 84 percent of her supporters taking one of those two positions.

Florida Southern College’s study also asked respondents about their second choice of candidates, should their first choice suspend their campaign or otherwise become unviable. The results revealed no one candidate standing out as the consensus second-choice pick but found Florida voters choosing candidates who are ideologically aligned with their first choice. For example, 21 percent of respondents who identified Elizabeth Warren as their first choice chose Bernie Sanders as their second choice. Likewise, 23 percent of respondents who chose Joe Biden as their first choice selected Michael Bloomberg as their second choice. As the electoral landscape changes over the next several weeks with the South Carolina Primary and Super Tuesday, these results may suggest how voters in Florida’s Democratic presidential preference primary could alter their allegiances.

Florida Southern student Sergio Trevino-Rios of Labelle, who surveyed both English- and Spanish-speaking voters, believes respondents were more receptive to the poll because it was conducted by the College and not by a third-party organization on behalf of any particular candidate. “People were more relaxed and had more confidence in students asking the questions,” he said.

Lexi Potter of Apollo Beach, who had worked as part of a call center for one of Dr. Baumann’s previous polls, was glad to be involved in the process again. “Many people don’t answer or hang up, but after the week is over, we are all always incredibly glad we did it,” Potter said, adding that the experience serves as a reminder of how difficult it can be to gather data, even on topics that might be expected to elicit strong opinions.

The Center for Polling and Policy Research operates to further Florida Southern College’s mission of preparing students through the use of dynamic opportunities for engaged learning. By becoming involved in the Center’s surveys, students gain valuable firsthand experience in fielding surveys and analyzing the resulting data.