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Majority of Jacksonville voters support moving Duval County Jail, UNF poll says

Data from the latest "Jax Speaks" Poll from the University of North Florida shows 53% of voters are in favor of moving the jail while 40% oppose.
Credit: First Coast News

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Data released Monday by the University of North Florida shows that Duval voters are in favor of building a new jail away from its current downtown location. A total of 53% of voters are in favor of the move, while 40% oppose. Seven percent of respondents said they didn't know or had no answer.

The question comes at a time when both the Jacksonville Sheriffs administrative offices and the downtown Duval County Jail are under renovation. A new jail and offices would cost an additional $380 million, a price tag that's less than half the bill the city would have to foot for a renovated Jaguars stadium.

"The relatively high support for moving the jail and JSO offices away from downtown given the large estimated $380 million price tag is rather surprising,” noted Dr. Michael Binder, faculty director at UNF's Public Opinion Research Lab.

 This question comes from the latest release of UNF's "Jax Speaks" Poll, which measures Duval's opinions on various public policy issues. UNF consistently asks respondents what the most important problem facing Jacksonville is. 

Voters across party and racial lines have consistently said "crime" by a wide margin. In the latest poll, 37% name crime as Jacksonville's biggest issue, with Democrats (46%) more likely than Republicans (32%) and Independents (29%) to say so.

"Crime has historically been the biggest problem in past PORL surveys, so it’s no surprise to see it at the top of the list,” said said Binder. “While it may not be among the top issues, homelessness seems to be an emerging concern for Duval voters too."

Housing costs are the second most important issue, according to 11% of respondents. 9% of respondents said the third most important issues is improving transportation and infrastructure.

The poll also found Sheriff T.K. Waters enjoys the title of most popular elected official in Duval, with 64% of voters saying they approve of the job he's doing as Sheriff, while just 16% disapprove. 20% of respondents didn't know or had no answer. Waters' support crosses party lines, with majorities of both major parties and independents saying they support the new sheriff. 

This is higher than Mayor Donna Deegan, on whom the public is split 47% approve, 14% disapprove, 40% don't know. The Jacksonville City Council enjoys the least amount of support from the public, with a net approval of just eight percent.

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