University of South Florida


Paper survey with pencil

National survey by USF researchers shows voter opinions on immigration and border security, impact of politics on mental health and election distrust

Researchers at the University of South Florida have released findings from a nationwide survey that measures attitudes related to key election issues. The survey, sponsored by Cyber Florida at USF, addresses how Americans feel about topics including immigration and border security, election distrust, the impact of politics on voters’ mental health and social media usage.

Among the findings:

Consistent with national trends, a majority of Americans express dissatisfaction with the job that President Biden is doing on key policy issues, especially when it comes to immigration and border security:

  • Immigration/Border Security:    31% Approve                62% Disapprove
  • Jobs and the Economy:               41% Approve                55% Disapprove
  • Foreign Policy:                              34% Approve                59% Disapprove
  • Unifying Americans:                    37% Approve                55% Disapprove

Among likely voters, respondents prioritized the economy and immigration when asked about the issues most likely to affect how they vote this November. 

  • 74% of likely voters indicated that “pocketbook issues” will be more important than “social values issues” when they vote this November.
  • 51% identified “jobs and the economy” as being among the top three issues that will affect how they vote.
  • More than two-thirds of likely voters (68%) said that immigration will influence how they vote this fall, with 25% saying it will be the determining factor.
  • “Inflation” (50%) and “immigration” (34%) were the other most-commonly cited issues.

A large majority of Americans would like to see more Border Patrol agents and physical barriers on the United States’ southern border, though most oppose more controversial efforts, such as “family separation” policies.  A plurality also expressed opposition to the existence of “sanctuary cities”.

  • Increasing the number of Border Patrol agents                            77% Support      15% Oppose
  • Increasing physical barriers on the southern border                   60% Support     31% Oppose
  • Remain in Mexico Policy                                                                    52% Support     24% Oppose
  • Protected status for DACA recipients (i.e. “Dreamers”)                52% Support     28% Oppose
  • “Sanctuary Cities”                                                                                38% Support     48% Oppose
  • “Family Separation” policies                                                              21% Support     66% Oppose

A plurality of respondents believe that individual states should be allowed to implement their own immigration policies, even if those policies conflict with federal immigration laws.

  • 47% of respondents believe states should be allowed to implement their own immigration policies, while 32% disagree, and 21% are unsure.
  • 60% of registered voters say that they trust the individual states to handle immigration and border security at least “a little,” while only 39% say the same about the U.S. Congress.
  • More Republicans (64%) than Democrats (40%) support states implementing their own immigration policies. 

Republican voters expressed more support for stricter border policies across the board.

  • 66% of Republicans “strongly support” an increase in Border Patrol agents, compared with 33% of Democrats and 39% of independents.
  • A majority (56%) of Republicans “strongly support” deploying the National Guard to the southern border, compared with 21% of Democrats and 26% of independents.
  • 70% of Republicans “strongly support” increasing physical barriers on the southern border, compared with 23% of Democrats and 31% of independents.

Nearly two-thirds of registered voters describe politics as a “source of stress,” with many reporting disruptions to their social and mental well-being as a result.

  • 64% say that politics is at least a “minor source of stress” for them, with 18% describing it as a “major source of stress.”
  • 15% say that politics has caused them to “lose sleep” over the past month.
  • 31% say that they have lost their temper over politics during the same time period.
  • 46% have spent more time than they’d like thinking about politics over the past month.
  • Nearly a third say that politics has caused conflict among their friends (31%) and within their families (33%).

A significant portion of Republican voters continue to express distrust in the integrity of American elections, including doubts over whether their individual votes will be accurately counted in this year’s election.

  • While a majority of registered voters (63%) believe that President Biden legitimately won the 2020 election, only 34% of Republican voters agree. Fifty-one percent of Republican voters don’t believe that Biden legitimately won the election, while 14% say they are “unsure.”
  • More than two-thirds of voters (69%) say that they are at least “somewhat confident” that “this year’s presidential election will be conducted fairly.”  However, a majority of registered Republicans say that they are either “not very” (34%) or “not at all confident” (14%) that the election will be conducted fairly.
  • Nearly three-quarters of registered voters (73%) are confident that their individual votes will be counted accurately this year, though 37% of registered Republicans disagree.

Heading into the 2024 presidential election, Democratic and Republican voters hold decidedly negative opinions of one another.  

  • When presented with a list of both positive and negative traits, the most common terms that Democrats used to describe Republican voters were: 

            Hypocritical       83%

            Selfish                80%

            Mean                  77%

            Hard Working   50%

  • When presented with the same list, the most common terms that Republicans used to describe Democratic voters were:

            Hypocritical     79%

             Selfish             74%

             Lazy                 61%

            Mean               61%

A majority of Americans rely on social media at least “a little” to stay informed about politics, but most describe the political environment on social media in negative terms.

  • More than a quarter of respondents (28%) say that they rely on social media “a great deal” to stay informed about politics and current events, while another 36% say that they rely on it at least “a little.”
  • Social media users chose decidedly negative terms to describe the political discussions they encounter on social media.  The most commonly selected adjectives included: 

         One-Sided        45%

         Informative      45%

         Frustrating       40%

         Angry                29%

         Hateful             29%

The nationwide survey included a representative sample of 1,500 registered voters, fielded May 3-9, 2024. Results are reported with a confidence level of 95% and a margin of error +/- 2.5%. The complete results can be found here.

This report marks the second of four surveys set to be conducted quarterly over the course of the year. Subsequent results will continue to emphasize how social media usage affects political polarization, election-related stress and belief in election-related misinformation.  

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