TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – With 29 electoral votes up for grabs, Florida has long been an important swing state that’s notorious for close calls. But what makes the Sunshine State such a key swing state?
Florida has a diverse population of 21.5 million. According to recent data from the Division of Elections, 35% of the state’s registered voters are Republican, 37% are Democrat and 27% of voters are registered as a minor party or have no party affiliation.
With the third-highest Latin and Hispanic population in the country, Florida’s Latin and Hispanic communities are reshaping political turnout in the state.
A handful of key issues among Florida voters guide how they may vote. While different issues take priority during different election cycles, three have remained specific to the Sunshine State.
Rising sea levels, which impact the estimated 15 million residents who live on the state’s 1,200 miles of shoreline, could end up costing the state $76 billion by 2040. For many of the state’s voters who regularly experience storm surge or major flooding during heavy rain, their vote will be given to someone who could thoughtfully plan and prepare for sea-level rise.
An issue that has taken priority amid the coronavirus pandemic for many voters is unemployment. In December of 2019, the state’s unemployment rate dropped to 2.5%. But in May of 2020, unemployment reached 14.3%, the 11th-worst rate in the country.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, an ardent Trump supporter, was on the receiving end of significant criticism as the state’s Department of Economic Opportunity quickly became overwhelmed, leaving hundreds of unemployed workers without benefits for months.
Immigration is an issue that hits home for Florida’s large immigrant population. According to the American Immigration Council, one in five residents of Florida was born in another country. One in eight residents is native-born U.S. citizens with at least one immigrant parent.
Florida’s estimated 4.5 million immigrants make up more than a quarter of the state’s labor force and more than half of them are naturalized U.S. citizens. For many of Florida’s citizens, the issue of immigration is a personal one.
Florida, unlike many other states, has never been decidedly Republican or Democrat. Florida’s voters have had little consistency in the elections in the last 24 years.
One thing that remains a constant in Florida’s role in the presidential race is its reputation as the decision-maker in who occupies the White House.
Since the 1960s, the winner of Florida’s electoral votes has become president in every election except the 1992 presidential race.
Take a look at Florida’s general election results throughout the years:
A recent NBC News/ Marist poll shows both President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden deadlocked, each with 48 percent of support among respondents who say they’re likely voters.
The poll follows the state’s pattern of historically close presidential races.
In 2016, Trump won the state’s electorial votes by just over 1%.
“It’s not unusual for Florida to be this close,” Lee Miringoff, the director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion told NBC News. “If Trump loses Florida, it’s game over. If Trump wins, the story of the night will still have to be told.”
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