University of South Florida


charts with a magnifying glass

USF and FAU researchers release statewide public opinion survey results on key health policy issues

By Althea Johnson, University Communications and Marketing

Researchers at the University of South Florida, in collaboration with Florida Atlantic University, have released findings from a statewide survey that measures attitudes related to key health policy issues. The survey, sponsored by the Florida Center for Cybersecurity at USF, addresses how Floridians feel about topics including COVID-19 misinformation, artificial intelligence, medical marijuana and the opioid crisis. 

Among the findings:

Misinformation about the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines continues to persist after more than two years. A significant number of Floridians expressed some degree of belief in several statements classified as “False” by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The list below shows the percentage of respondents who said that each statement was either “probably” or “definitely true”: 

  • Getting sick with COVID-19 builds better immunity than getting a vaccine – 51% 
  • COVID-19 vaccines contain a “live strain” of the virus – 49%
  • COVID-19 vaccines are causing new variants of the virus to emerge – 42% 
  • Vaccines can cause you to get sick with COVID-19 – 42% 
  • A COVID-19 vaccine will cause you to temporarily test “positive” for the virus – 42% 
  • COVID-19 vaccines alter your DNA – 26%
  • COVID-19 vaccines can cause infertility – 24%
  • COVID-19 vaccines contain microchips – 14%

Amid a recent uptick in COVID-19 cases, attitudes toward the pandemic remain starkly divided along political lines.   Democratic respondents were significantly more willing to receive ongoing vaccine boosters than their Republican counterparts (84% of Democrats vs. 53% of Republicans).  Conversely, Republicans reported lower levels of trust in public health guidance and were significantly more likely to express belief in the misinformation themes noted above.  

Floridians are relatively divided on the benefits of artificial intelligence (AI) to American society, though most express concerns over the risks associated with rapid AI development. While 46% of respondents believe that AI will improve American society, nearly the same portion (45%) disagree.  Moreover, 75% say that they’re concerned about the risks AI poses to human security, and more than two-thirds (70%) would support a temporary “pause” on AI development in the United States.  

While a plurality of Floridians say that AI will improve health care outcomes, they are more comfortable with some proposed applications of the technology than others. A plurality of respondents (50%) believe that AI will improve patient outcomes, while just under a third (32%) disagree.  When considering specific potential applications of AI, respondents expressed a range of comfort levels and concerns.  The list below shows the percentage of respondents who say they are either “very” or “somewhat comfortable” with AI being used for each of the following purposes.

  • To schedule patient appointments and follow-ups – 84% 
  • To collect and enter patient intake data (such as symptoms and medical histories) – 61%
  • To read and interpret medical imaging (such as X-rays and radiology images) – 57%
  • To assist doctors in making a diagnosis – 50%
  • To assist doctors in conducting surgical procedures – 46%
  • To recommend medication and treatment plans for patients – 45%
  • To administer prescribed medications to patients – 34%

Floridians are generally supportive of the legalization of both medical and recreational marijuana. Although support for medical marijuana is higher (83%), a plurality of Floridians also support legalizing recreational marijuana (60%). When considering top concerns regarding medical marijuana, respondents generally disagreed that medical marijuana was being misused. The list below shows the percentage of respondents who say they “strongly” or “somewhat” agree with these statements about medical marijuana. 

  • Medical marijuana is being abused – 45%
  • Medical marijuana is too easy to obtain – 39%
  • There should be harsh penalties for sharing medical marijuana – 40%

When it comes to the opioid crisis, Floridians had mixed opinions on harm reduction policies, expressing stronger support for syringe exchange options than Narcan administration. A majority of respondents (73%) felt that exchange programs should be available in all counties, with 68% welcoming these programs in their own communities. Regarding Narcan, a slight majority of respondents (44%) would either “somewhat” or “strongly” oppose limiting the number of times first responders use Narcan on the same person. A plurality of respondents (42%) would also be willing to administer Narcan, but only if they were trained on how to use it. 

Floridians hold mixed opinions about when persons living with HIV (PLH) should be required to disclose their HIV status to potential sexual partners. The top circumstances in which participants felt that persons living with HIV should be required to disclose their status to potential sexual partners were either before kissing (47%) or before intercourse (40%).  Only 2% felt that PLH should never disclose their status. There were also mixed opinions on penalties for non-disclosure, with 31% believing non-disclosure should result in a monetary fine, 27% choosing one-five years in prison, and 12% choosing less than one year in prison. Most Floridians felt that they were at no risk (62%) for contracting HIV. 

Floridians supported increasing public education on HIV prevention methods. The list below shows the percentage of respondents who say they either “strongly” or “somewhat” support the following HIV prevention efforts: 

  • Raising awareness on condom use – 95%
  • Raising awareness on HIV medications – 94%
  • Making condoms easily accessible and free – 88% 
  • Making HIV medications easily accessible and free – 85%

The survey included a representative sample of 600 adult Floridians, fielded Aug. 10-21, 2023. Respondents are representative of the state's population based on age, gender, race, ethnicity and political affiliation. Results are reported with a confidence level of 95% and a margin of error +/- 4%.

The complete survey results can be found here.

Return to article listing