Poll: Adding Drilling Ban To Constitution Not A Sure Thing

Mar 16, 2018

It has been almost an article of faith in Florida politics: residents do not want oil drilling off the state’s coasts.

But poll results released Thursday suggest that a drilling ban might not have enough voter support to go into the Florida Constitution.

The poll, conducted by the Tallahassee-based firm Clearview Research, found that 54 percent of voters support a proposed constitutional amendment that would ban offshore oil and gas drilling in state waters, while 42 percent oppose the idea. Constitutional amendments require 60 percent voter approval to pass.

Clearview Research this month polled 750 likely general-election voters about a series of proposals being considered by the Florida Constitution Revision Commission, including a proposed drilling ban.

“Somewhat surprisingly, a ban on offshore oil drilling does not poll as high as one might have guessed given Florida’s history on this issue,” Clearview Research President Steve Vancore said in comments released with the results. “At 54 percent to 42 percent and showing a very low number of undecided voters (only 4 percent), this would have a hard time crossing the 60 percent threshold.”

The Constitution Revision Commission, which meets every 20 years and can put measures directly on the November ballot, will start a series of sessions Monday in Tallahassee to take up the drilling ban and nearly three-dozen other proposed amendments. It will decide this spring which proposals will go before voters.

Florida law has long prevented oil and gas drilling in state waters, but the proposed constitutional amendment would create a more-permanent ban. Republican and Democratic politicians have fought drilling, arguing that it could endanger the state’s beaches. Drilling supporters say it should remain an option, at least in part to help meet energy needs.

Clearview Research conducted the poll from March 1 through March 7 and has released a series of results this week. The poll has a margin of error of 3.58 percentage points.

Other results released Thursday included a poll question that showed overwhelming support for a proposed constitutional amendment that would expand the rights of crime victims. The proposal, which is part of a national drive, is known as “Marsy’s Law,’ after a California woman who was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1983.

The poll indicated that 78 percent of Florida voters would support the measure if it reaches the November ballot. Gov. Rick Scott this week also endorsed the proposal.

“The so-called Marsy’s law proposal is a near lock to pass as it sits at 78 percent support, and voters seem to clearly want the rights of crime victims to be expanded,” Vancore said.

Also Thursday, Vancore’s firm released results on a proposal that would make it harder to amend the Constitution in the future. Passing a constitutional amendment now requires approval from 60 percent of the voters who cast ballots on that measure. Under the proposal, passing a constitutional amendment would require approval from 60 percent of voters who cast ballots in the overall election --- a harder test to meet because many people skip voting on proposed constitutional amendments.

The poll indicated that 55 percent of voters would support such a change. Vancore said 18 percent of the poll respondents were undecided on the issue, “suggesting some level of confusion, which is understandable given the relatively complex nature of the question.”