Report: WTF Florida?!
A look into what gives in the Sunshine State
We must reclaim Family, Finances, and Freedom — the three most important values to white Floridians.
In this study, we explored how Florida White Voters (FWVs), generally 66% of the Florida electorate, perceive the federal, state and local levels of government, how they were looking into the future, why they voted as they did, what mattered and still matters to them, and how they think about issues that count. Getting FWVs is essential to winning the state of Florida. What follows is a revealing look into what drives the sunshine state.
The research approach
This approach, using metaphor as well as a variety of sensory exercises, was designed around the way that people think and the way thought is structured, leveraging best practices from the world of psychology and neuroscience in order to give participants the time and the space to share what matters most to them in an unfiltered manner.
- 25-49 year-old Non-College Men and Women
- 25-49 year-old College Educated Men and Women
- Snowbirds: age 50+ non-native Floridians who were born in the United States
The 3 key FWV values
Explaining your vote for Trump
2. Finances as King
3. Live Free(ish) or Die Trying
4. America(ns) First, Not Second
5. The Offensive Outsider Can’t be Corrupt
All imagery that follows, unless otherwise indicated, was provided by the research subjects.
A Sense of Safety for my Family
Finances as King
Live Free(ish) or Die Trying
America(ns) First, Not Second
The Offensive Outsider Can’t be Corrupt
Regarding President Joe Biden
“I don’t think Biden has what it takes to stand his ground against some of the foreign leaders, and I think he is just a puppet of the Democratic party.” – FLORIDA MAN
In many ways, perceptions of President Joe Biden are related to larger perceptions – both positive and negative – of the Democratic Party.
“I felt the Biden/Harris ticket was a vote for the same old DC politics. Where politicians are bought and sold by lobbyists and once they get into office they owe people favors. And they don’t always think about what is good for the people.” Anthony, College
“This [reaching hand] represents how the government is now and how it is trying to over reach and take away some of our freedoms.” Jennifer, College
“He has supported a strong roll out of Covid vaccines and management. He wants to help improve me and my family life’s with better infrastructure and plans that put America in a global spotlight as a world leader.“ Aaron, Snowbird
“[Biden] has given me stimulus checks which we needed.” Tami, Snow Bird
“He wants to help us – President [Biden]. He wants to show us that there is a good America that helps its people. He has continued my SSDI. I’ve gotten stimulus checks. I’ve noticed he’s helped my friends. My friend just bought a house – he couldn’t have done that without Biden.” Robert, Snow Bird
“I think the outcome is good for those underserved people in our state. I reaped the benefit of the stimulus check but didn’t really need it. There should have been a sliding scale to help those who really need it more. But, I’m not going to lie-I love getting the stimulus checks! ” Stacy, College M&W
“[Biden] wants to give me incentives to increase the population by providing child tax credits and stimulus checks to incentivize births. Children that will work for the benefit of the older generations. He is doing an ok job so far. [I’d like] if he sent more stimulus checks for our families.”Jackie, Non-College M&W
“As far as regarding Covid and beyond, Republicans have come up short when it comes to providing stimulus checks to people who really need it. The Democrats were pushing for more stimulus checks to help people. In a non-Covid world, I feel the Republicans are better for my personal finance because they do look to have lower taxes. Which will make my paycheck more.” Anthony, College M&W
Regarding VP Kamala Harris
As may be expected, VP Harris is coming up against significant biases and pre-existing, negative perceptions of the Democratic Party.
“She strikes me as arrogant.” Mary, Snowbird
“Her politics and progressive policies will bankrupt this country.” Jesse, College
“I wasn’t her target demographic during her campaign.” Shana, Non-College
While sentiment is mixed across participants, it largely skews negative. In many ways, it feels like VP Harris can’t do anything right in the eyes of these FWVs.
“She hasn’t really done anything for me as of yet. President Biden did put her in charge of the border crisis but as of today she has not even visited our southern border with Mexico.” Travis, College
“I wasn’t her target demographic during her campaign.” Shana, Non-College
As I head into the 2022 election, I am planning to…
“I would need to tell my future self to make sure he does his homework on the candidates. Don’t just run to the polls and vote cause he is Republican or the other party. Check them out, look them up, Google them, see if they are for the future as you are.” Robert, Snowbird
“Stick to the facts and never allow your emotions to dictate any decision.” Shana, Non-College
“Do what you believe is right. Vote for the best choice for you.” Dennis, College
As I head into the 2022 election, I keep thinking about…
“It would be nice if both parties [could] get together and figure out some kind of healthcare system that really works well for everyone in this country.” Lisa, Snowbird
“We still have a huge crisis at our borders [that] no one can seem to figure out [how to handle] the right way.” Lisa, Snowbird
“I feel we are headed into another depression. [The] housing market is going to crash soon and I am worried it will be a HUGE issue in 2022.” Mitra, Non-College
What do people think of Gov. Ron DeSantis?
“As leadership started to step up, things started to become more comfortable. I have a high respect for DeSantis due to this reason. He was a voice of reason.” David, College
“State of Florida was great. That’s why so many people from other states came down here. They were tired of being held hostage in their own states.” Ellen, Snowbird
“I’m a little on the edge. I like Governor DeSantis but I feel like he should have done more to protect people who did get hit hard from the pandemic and were financially ruined to try and help tenants and landlords more.” Lisa, Snowbird
“Government should have acted faster and made masks mandatory sooner instead of making everything political… DeSantis was too much in the Trump Camp to be aggressive enough; there was always an excuse.” Jesse, College
The father figure
As if talking about their own fathers, they chose verbs like protect, support, and guide to explain their perceptions of DeSantis and what he wants to do for them.
FWVs perceive his top priority as governor to be stabilizing the economy, and to a lesser degree, education
“He wants to make sure taxes in our state remain low and competitive, and attract more people to move here and bring more jobs to Florida.” Jesse, College
“He is interested in increasing teachers’ pay.” Travis, College
“Good morning, Governor DeSantis. Wanted to remind you that today is the day that you are going to be providing raises for educators and health care workers across the state. I hope you have a great day and look forward to checking in with you soon. Bye!” Florida Woman
“This would be for Governor DeSantis. Thank you so much for keeping schools open this year. This has been critical as a single father who moved to the state for that very purpose. Fantastic! Sorry I’m moving around so much. What I would love to see you do would be to discuss very openly and plainly how you’re going to solve the red tide problem, which on the west coast is a disaster for four months a year, and really, really is an environmental nightmare. It seems like you’re being pushed around by big business when it comes to the big agriculture, ‘cause I’m assuming that’s where the algae blooms come from, from all the fertilizer that goes into the sugar planters up in the north. ‘Because that’s what I hear through the news. So, maybe I’m wrong, but I would love to see a plan for solving red tide and keeping the Florida aquifer crystal clear and pure. But everything else, kudos, sir.” Florida Man
DeSantis possesses a Florida-first mentality, supporting FWVs’ dreams to live happily in the state
“Continue to support a strong Florida for me and my family. That we always have the resources available to support and enjoy our daily lives.” Aaron, Snowbird
“Tried to balance the COVID crisis and economic impact to our citizens.” Mary, Snowbird
Put simply, DeSantis gets Florida.
“We don’t want to live in restrictive, high taxed states such as California and New York.” Ellen, Snowbird
“I think he has met many challenges during the pandemic. I believe Floridians are pleased with his performance.” Tami, Snowbird
However, DeSantis may have a weakness in the ambitious, Trump-following path he’s been on.
Opportunity for Dems
Regarding Florida’s unemployment system:
“Hi, Governor DeSantis. I’m leaving you a voicemail regarding my unemployment. And what I would like is for you to please reopen my case and pay me the unemployment that is due to me, because thanks to previous Governor Rick Scott, who made the guidelines and other changes to the unemployment, I was cheated out of what is rightfully mine, and I should get paid my unemployment. I would also like to overhaul the system to make it easier and more fair because we definitely had a lot of problems during the pandemic with people applying for and receiving their unemployment assistance. Thank you!” Florida Woman
What do people think of Sen. Marco Rubio?
They directly feel the impact of their Governor’s power, but are blind to the Senator’s action, leaving them questioning what power he has and what exactly Rubio can, and should be doing for them.
Rubio’s personal story is closely tied to what FWVs view his priorities to be as senator: enabling the pursuit of the American Dream and immigration
“I think he wants Floridians to achieve the American Dream and become better US citizens as a result.” Stacey, College
“[He wants to] secure the country’s borders.” Brooke, College
His constituents want to believe he cares about them, but he is out of touch and lacks understanding of bread and butter issues
“He probably cares a lot about the people that he is representing, but is also lost in the big Washington… since he’s been in the Senate.” Sharman, Snowbird
“He says he’s concerned about housing issues but it’s only for low income. He is ignoring the middle class that is suffering as well… The market is dry, there are no homes and the few that are available are INFLATED. No one is able to buy a home!” Mitra, Non-College
“Get to know us so we can get to know you better.”
FWVs lack understanding of what a senator is responsible for and therefore can’t pinpoint exactly what Rubio has done for them, nor can they readily identify his beliefs
“I can’t think of something that he has done that has personally affected me.” Andrea, College
“To be completely honest, I do not know anything about Marco Rubio.” Anna, Non-College
Opportunity for Dems
“I don’t really know what [Rubio] wants to do for me because he doesn’t give hardly any press conferences and doesn’t even go on Twitter to explain what he is doing for Floridians in the US Senate.” Anthony, College
Florida’s ideal leader
Here’s what they say they want…
Holds frequent public meetings/events and actively communicates with the public via social media, news appearances, and in-person engagements, exhibiting a proactive, not reactive mentality
Here’s what they actually are calling out for…
Permits & Potholes
Keep us moving and productive
Infrastructure for the people – roadway and sewage systems to keep us moving
Interstate 295 has been under construction for far too long with what seems like little to no movement
Reducing the number of potholes in roads, along with re-applying paint lines more frequently to ensure motorists have clear visibility
FWVs want tax credits, or some sort of discount, for installing water filtration systems in their homes
An investment in education – as a means to productivity
Funding for special needs resources, like speech and behavioral therapy
Using federal dollars to establish a pathway to college
More education funding, from preschool to college, is seen by many to provide a return on investment to the state as individuals are likely to stay in, or return to Florida and pay taxes
“I would like to see student loan debt reduced so my generation can start contributing to the economy… instead of being buried under loans.” Brittany, Non-College
An investment in education – as a means to combat stereotypes
“It makes sense… the rest of the United States looks at Florida as a joke, saying that stupid people do stupid things.” Robert, Snowbird
“[Florida Man] says Floridians are unhinged, crazy, and uneducated, which is far from the truth.” Mitra, Non-College
An efficient unemployment system – that supports productivity
“I was assisting my daughter with applying for Florida unemployment and although she qualified, she never received. This placed a financial burden on me as she could not support herself and two children.” Mary, Snowbird
“No one is going out [and] getting work and it’s really no incentive for them to work [when they can] keep accepting unemployment without having to look for work… We need workers out in the workforce.” Tami, Snowbird
Keeping us financially OK
Infrastructure for the people – affordable housing industry
Affordable healthcare – and medical freedom
“Medicaid expansion would minimize the current coverage gap – some Floridians earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, yet do not make enough to qualify for tax credits through the ACA marketplace: “[Medicaid] is not just for children and the [poor]. There are a lot of people like myself that fell in between the cracks and we end up with no health insurance at all.” Lisa, Snowbird
Others are concerned about their medical freedom being taken away due to what’s perceived as mandatory vaccinations and masking for COVID, specifically. This creates broader concern for the future:
“It is a big deal when the government gets involved and controls your body.” Mitra, Non-College
A solution to – rising consumer prices
“[Biden] has raised gas prices and the cost of other goods… [Now that we] don’t have a businessman in power to guide us back, I am fearful that the people will continue to struggle financially in the long term with high property, gas, lumber, consumable prices.” Anna, Non-College
Keeping us safe
Family safety – and government protection
“I think the most important duties of the government are to physically protect the people, provide a proper foundation so that those who work reasonable hours can be successful and prosper, keep us safe, keep us healthy and keep us FREE. America was founded by the oppressed seeking a better life, and we need to keep that in mind in everything we do.” Anna, Non-College
Keeping things beautiful
Environmental solutions to – preserve natural beauty and home values
The red tide and algae blooms not only kill fish, but exacerbate health problems in individuals with chronic lung conditions
This plays into the economic concerns FWVs have about the high cost of property and disaster insurances throughout the state
What is Florida, really?
“I love Florida. My state has handled the COVID-19 pandemic very well. And our state is 100% opened up now. Businesses are open and jobs are plentiful. My relationship with Florida is a very strong marriage.”
“I like Florida, it has nice weather and there is always the beach! I think Florida is the lazy boyfriend because you want to be doing other things but he keeps holding you back. Florida is kind of slower paced-it is almost like an island time type feel, no one is in a rush. NO STATE TAX (HELLLLO), just overall good vibes.”
“I’d describe my relationship [to Florida] as my second cousin! Because we are really close.”
Dreams for Florida’s future
FWVs want more unity, less division, and to focus on America first. They have different ideas of who is responsible for making a better future happen, but it’s clear that the government and American citizens are essential parts of the equation.
“I would like to see the Democrats and Republicans come together more. There is so much resentment and conflict between the two groups and it has never been worse.” Stacey, College
“One thing I would like to add is that we as Americans need to vote people into office that have the best interest of America heart and not lobbyists for their own personal bank account.” Anthony, College
Political and democratic aspirations aside, our FWVs care about health, disease, and environmental pollutants and want solutions. They desire to be heard, thus feel valued, by their elected officials.
“I’d like to see a cure for cancer… More organic options in the grocery stores… the pesticides and preservatives are killing us. Steroids and hormones given to animals… are killing us. It all needs to stop.” Katrina, Snowbird
How do FWVs view diversity and unity?
“Learning that we are all not the same person [or] people and learning from each other and being accepted by all is vital.” Kathleen, Snowbird
“To me [diversity] means accepting our differences and still choosing to stand together to achieve a goal for the greater good.” Anna, Non-College
“I think diversity is a good thing… [but] It should not be shoved down your throat though.” Jesse, College
“Unity is a lie and very controlling… I am not a fan of how the current administration uses unity.” Daniel, Non-College
“It doesn’t matter in the workplace but it matters in schools and government.” Tami, Snowbird
“It matters at the polls, a good politician should have a diverse base.” Peter, Non-College
The state of news in Florida
We shared the following video with participants as a means to see how they processed news that may or may not be considered misinformation.
Participant reactions were varied, but the impact of “fake news” propaganda was real. Many doubted the veracity of any CNN clip and hated the format of opinion as news.
Real vs. fake news: how do Floridians tell?
“I guess I am pretty hesitant to believe anything until I research it. You can’t trust the media these days… [I do] good old fashioned research. Looking up the headline at multiple news sources. Then coming to the conclusion on my own.” Mitra, Non-College
“In NYC working at the Opera I was a lone centrist in a sea of leftists… Becoming ostracized forced me to be very clear, very careful with my sources…. Once I started waking from my cultish hypnosis a moral compass began forming. That alone has been a revelation.” Chris, Snowbird
What’s with news consumption in Florida?
Local news meets people where they’re already at and covers close-to-home happenings:
- Newspaper: The Orlando Sentinel & Tampa Bay Times
- TV: Local news stations/broadcasts; the Weather Channel
- Digital: Governor’s website
Curated lists or feeds echo the personal feel that local news provides, pulling together headlines and stories that give a just-for-me feeling:
- Google News
- Yahoo News
- Facebook & Twitter
Bucking the norm of how news has traditionally been consumed, even combining information and entertainment:
- Late-Night TV (i.e., John Oliver)
- Podcasts (i.e. Commentary Magazine)
How is the Florida government perceived?
What is it?
How is the federal government perceived?
What FWVs want the federal government to stay out of:
“Civil wars in other countries! They’ve been going on for hundreds even thousands of years!! We CANNOT be the police for the whole world!” Katrina, Snowbird
“I think the government should not give bailouts to companies that do not deserve the help, ie. They brought the problems on themselves. I also think the government should not provide so much assistance, without it being harder to get it.” Jennifer, College
“The government should not be giving foreign aid to our adversaries. This is used in turn for nefarious reasons that sabotage the philanthropic nature of our country.” Jackie, Non-College
3. Corrupt & Chaotic
4. Disconnected from the Best of our History
3. Facilitating the Success of the American People
4. Connected with the Wisdom of the Generations
Let’s talk money
Who’s in charge of the economy?
“The government is helping us keep [the economy] together. Whether to do with money and food and products.” Robert, Snowbird
“I have to go with Republicans – they’re better for the economy. Pre-pandemic our economy was rolling… Americans had more liquid spending money and when you give them more liquid money they spend it, which boosts the economy… ” David, College
And what’s the economy, really?
“The economy is all the products and services that move throughout the world and all the supply and demand factors that play into industry and business. It is defined by the gross domestic product of the output generated in a country.” Jesse, College
“[The economy] is how society works. Things are made. People buy [things] and that creates jobs. People use the jobs to make money and that pays for the things to buy.” Daniel, Non-College
“It’s the financial lifeline of the country.” Christa, Non-College
The meaning of work
“I cannot stress enough the importance of having a job – not only for personal and professional development, but to be a role model for family and friends so they can see your contributions to society.” Jackie, Non-College
Opportunity for Dems
Would your vote change?
Trump Would Still Have My Vote
Still, it’s clear that Trump represented the bottom line for Floridian Independents:
securing the border, independence, and economic prosperity.
“I would have voted differently I was thinking that I made the right decision at the polls. I thought this is the guy will continue to change this country and make it great again. [Trump] failed big time… I definitely made the wrong choice with that one.” Robert, Snowbird
“I was not happy with [Trump’s] term as President, I guess it’s the lesser of two evils? I do not agree with a lot of things the Democrats are wanting this time around, medical freedom (mandatory vaccines) and ACA are the two biggest reasons.” Mitra, Non-College
“I saw the great changes Trump had accomplished. He made a great attempt to stop the flooding of the borders but found resistance. Trump is a business man and the country in essence is a business.” Tami, Snowbird
Our FWVs’ feelings about political polls
How our segments differ
- The freedom to exercise their right to vote provides happiness
- Recognize the diversity in the United States and realize voting is an expression of such diversity
- Knowing that each political generation leaves a legacy – wonder what this legacy will be
- Feeling the tension between being ignored and heard via their vote
- There’s a nostalgic element to voting in that it brings a focus on family and freedom
- Recognize the inherent privilege in voting – it’s a freedom
- Feels a responsibility to vote (and don’t take it lightly)
- Fear that we are losing our sense of history, that we’d rather forget than learn from past mistakes
- Voting is a vehicle that allows me to protect my children and issues important to me, like healthcare
- The gravity of the choice before me isn’t lost on me and causes me angst
Our Snowbirds on voting
Our College participants on voting
Our Non-college participants on voting
“Everything we do and everything we decide affects our future generations.” Christa, Non-College
“Stress comes along with making such an important decision… Anytime you are faced with a choice that can affect the outcome of your life and the lives of others will always be stressful.” Glenn, Non-College
The WTF Florida Playlist
Please share one song that represents the outcome of your vote for the presidential ticket in the 2020 election and then explain how your song represents the outcome of your vote.
Click Here to Listen, with liner notes to follow.