Examining Florida’s Political Leanings

Florida is often one of the key swing states in presidential elections.  In 2000, the state’s electoral votes went to George W. Bush, making him president over Al Gore.   Currently, the state has 29 electoral votes at stake (there were 25 in 2000).  The state has mostly voted Republican in presidential elections since 1972 except in 1976, 1996, 2008.  In 2008, Obama won 51 percent of the vote and McCain won 47 percent of the vote.   Analysts expect a close election this year.  The Rasmussen poll taken October 26th shows Romney leading Obama 50% to 48% in the Florida polls with 2% remaining undecided.

The map and data below tell the story of the demographic and political makeup of the Florida voters prior to the election.  What will ultimately sway the voters in this state?  What do we know about them?  We’ll be sure to check back after Nov. 6 to see what the election results reveal.

General Population Statistics

Florida, known as “The Sunshine State” has a population of about 18.9 million people.  Its population is just a tiny bit more diverse than the total U.S. population, though its make-up is different.  Esri, the world’s leader in geographic information systems (GIS), created a proprietary Diversity Index that measures diversity on a scale of 0 to 100. The Diversity Index is defined as the likelihood that two people, selected at random from the same area, would belong to a different race or ethnic group. The Diversity Index for Florida is 61.9. This compares to a U.S. Diversity Index of 61.  The diversity in Florida is due to its Hispanic and Black populations.  21.1 percent of adults in Florida identify themselves as Hispanic and 14.4 percent of adults in Florida identify themselves as Black.

Here are some key demographic statistics about Florida:

Demographic Variable

Florida

U.S.

2011 Median Age

40.9

37.2

2010 % Male / % Female

48.9%/51.9%

49.2%/50.8%

2011 Median Household Income

$44,062

$50,227

% Hispanic 18+ Population

21.1%

14.2%

% Black 18+ Population

14.4%

12.0%

2010 Median Home Value

$ 130,344

$157,913

Sources: Esri 2011/2016 Updated Demographics, U.S. Census

Esri provides Market Potential data that includes a Market Potential Index (MPI). The Index measures the probability that adults or households in a specific area will exhibit certain consumer behaviors compared to the U.S. average.  The Index is tabulated to represent a value of 100 as the overall demand for the U.S.  This Index shows that the residents of Florida lean a little conservative.

Market Potential Variable

Index

Consider self very conservative

104

Consider self somewhat conservative

103

Consider self middle of the road

100

Consider self somewhat liberal

99

Consider self very liberal

94

Sources: Esri, GfK MRI

A resident of Florida is 4 percent more likely than the average American to consider himself very conservative and 3 percent more likely to consider himself somewhat conservative.  A resident of Florida is 1 percent less likely than the average American to consider himself somewhat liberal and 6 percent less likely than the average American to consider himself very liberal.

Florida Politics Market Potential Index

Where people live in Florida does seem to reflect their political leanings.  Areas around the larger cities such as Miami/Ft. Lauderdale, Jacksonville, and Tallahassee tend to lean liberal.  Overall, most of the ZIP codes in Florida have more people that lean conservative.

For Democrats, it is important to know that one of the ZIP codes with the highest likelihood of very liberal voters in Florida is 33131 – located in Miami.  The Index for someone who considers himself very liberal in this ZIP code is 303 – meaning a resident there is 3.03 times more likely to consider himself more liberal than the average American.  This ZIP code has a median household income of $71,757 and a median age of 34.5.  For Republicans, one of the most conservative ZIP codes in Florida is 32162 – which is The Villages, located in central Florida about 60 miles northwest of Orlando.  The Index for very conservative people there is 148, meaning a resident is 1.48 times more likely than the average American to consider himself very conservative.    This ZIP code has a median household income of $41,193 and a median age of 59.5.

Tapestry Segmentation Classifies Florida Neighborhoods

Esri also developed the Tapestry Segmentation system that classifies U.S. residential neighborhoods into 65 unique market segments based on socioeconomic and demographic characteristics.  The top Tapestry segments for Florida are:

Tapestry Segment

% Adults

Senior Sun Seekers

6.2%

Up and Coming Families

5.0%

Milk and Cookies

4.8%

Silver and Gold

4.8%

The Elders

4.4%

 

The most dominant Tapestry segment in Florida is Senior Sun Seekers.  Many Senior Sun Seekers residents are retired or are anticipating retirement. The median household income is $35,560 and the median age is 51.8. More than half of the households receive Social Security benefits. Approximately one-third of the households also receive retirement income. Because a large proportion of the population is older, the education attainment is far lower than the US levels.

Map of Florida by Tapestry Segment

Unemployment

The unemployment rate is a key figure that voters and analysts have been watching and scrutinizing carefully. It has a great impact on the economy as well as affecting many people personally and will likely affect how people vote.   The unemployment rate not only varies by state, but also by county.  When Barack Obama was sworn in as U.S. President in January 2009, Florida had an unemployment rate of 8.9 percent, which was higher than the national number of 7.8 percent.  Florida’s unemployment rate continues to be higher than the national rate.  In September 2012, that number had decreased slightly to 8.6 percent compared to 7.8 percent nationally.   The rate for each county in Florida varies based on its individual situation.

Florida Unemployment Change – January 2009 – September 2012

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

About half of the counties in Florida have lower unemployment rates now than when Obama took over as president and about half have higher unemployment.   Three counties have the same level of unemployment in September 2012 as they did in January 2009.  The county with the largest decrease in unemployment was Walton County, located on the southern coast of the Florida Panhandle.  Its unemployment rate decreased 2.2 percentage points from 7.7 percent in January 2009 to 5.5 percent in September 2012.

The county with the largest increase in unemployment was Hendry County, which is in southern Florida.  Its unemployment rate increased 3.1percentage points from 11.1 percent to 14.2 percent from January 2009 and September 2012.

Why Does This Matter?

Understanding the diverse demographics of the people who live in Florida can help Barack Obama and Mitt Romney target their campaigns and even messaging as they campaign around the state.  Knowing what the local issues are in a county, ZIP code, or block group, what the demographic make-up of an area is, what the political leanings are of an area, where unemployment is high or low, where their likely constituents live, or knowing what types of activities they participate in can help them find their supporters – at a very local level.  It can help them choose where to have rallies, distribute fliers, or where to focus robo calls.  It can help them be in a better position to win an election.

More information about Esri’s data can be found at www.esri.com/data or to learn more about Esri in general, go to www.esri.com.

Pam Allison is a digital media, marketing strategist, and location intelligence consultant.  You can visit her blog at www.pamallison.com.

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