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UNF Poll: Duval voters split on funding Jags stadium renovations

According to a new poll released Monday, 46% support and 47% oppose sending $1B to Jags for renovated stadium.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Do Duval voters want to pay for a renovated Jaguars stadium? A new poll from the University of North Florida shows they're split.

When UNF's Public Opinion Research Lab asked Duval County voters if they would support giving the team $1 billion in taxpayer funds to renovate EverBank Stadium, 46% said yes and 47% said no.

The poll of 511 registered voters in Duval County had a +/- 4.8% margin of error, which means that the two responses are statistically tied. Six percent of respondents said they did not know, and 2% refused to answer.

However, an overwhelming majority of voters said it was important for Jacksonville to have an NFL franchise in the city. A total of 83% of voters said they wanted a team, with 49% saying it was "very" important. Democrats were significantly more likely than Republicans to support taxpayer investment in the stadium, with 49% of Democrats in favor, compared to just 37% of Republicans. When broken down by sex, 47% of women supported the funding while 44% of men supported it.

The poll asked about publicly funded renovations at different price points. With the project estimated to cost $2 billion, the taxpayer-funded portion of $1 billion was the least popular, at just 6%. At a price point of $500 million, support cracked into the double digits, with 12% saying yes, and support nearly doubled when the number was cut to $250 million. The most popular option was having the Jaguars purchase the land and pay for renovations themselves, with just over half (51%) saying no to any public funding at all.

If public funds were given to the Jaguars to fix up the less than 30-year-old stadium, researchers wanted to know what the public thought the most important part of the deal would be. Nearly half of the public said that "community and economic investment in under served neighborhoods" was the most important. Poll respondents said that "creating more entertainment and nightlife downtown" and "negotiating the smallest public investment possible" were also important, at 19% and 18% respectively.

Public opinion has warmed significantly to funding the renovation project in recent months. When researchers last asked this question in August 2022, 80% of the public voiced opposition, with 69% saying they were "strongly opposed." In that poll, just 19% of Duval voters voiced support for the project, which at that point had an $850 million price tag. As negotiations have progressed, Jaguars owner Shahid Khan has stuck to his proposed 50-50 cost split between the Jaguars and the City.

“It’s no wonder Duval County voters don’t want to foot the bill for stadium renovations, but what’s really interesting is their change of heart when given the ultimatum of a $1 billion public investment or the Jaguars walking away,” said Dr. Michael Binder, PORL faculty director. “This is just one of several reasons that local taxpayers are going to end up shelling out an enormous sum of money for this endeavor."

Credit: AP
Mayor Donna Deegan, left, and city council Ju'Coby Pittman, right, at Bethel Baptist Church, Sept. 8, 2023 (Bob Self/The Florida Times-Union via AP)

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