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USF survey finds voters are unhappy going into this presidential election year

Sign with a giant red arrow pointing to the left that says VOTE.
Daylina Miller
Researchers from the University of South Florida are releasing a series of nationwide surveys on critical election year concerns.

A majority of those surveyed were dissatisfied with how President Biden has handled inflation, foreign policy and border security.

Researchers from the University of South Florida are releasing a series of nationwide surveys shedding light on critical election year concerns, like inflation, border security and the role of social media in political discourse.

The first in the series polled 1,500 registered voters and was conducted between January 23-27. Three more surveys will be released between now and November.

Lead researcher Stephen Neely is an associate professor at the USF School of Public Affairs. He said the goal is to track how public opinion changes as we get closer to the election.


Nearly two-thirds (65%) of those polled say that inflation has impacted their ability to pay their bills.

"It's forced (68% of) them to change their travel plans. It's forced (65% of) them to draw down their savings. This is real world day-to-day,” said Neely.

“This is shaping people's lives and so no matter how good the employment numbers look, no matter how good the GDP numbers look, a lot of Americans just aren't feeling that in their own pocketbook."

Those negative feelings extend to both President Joe Biden and the federal government.

Participants are dissatisfied with the federal government’s handling of inflation, with 47% saying they are “very dissatisfied,” while only 22% indicate being “somewhat satisfied.”

When it comes to Biden’s performance, 42% approve of how he is handling jobs and the economy, while 54% disapprove.

Other areas where Biden polls poorly include foreign policy (35% approve, 58% disapprove), immigration/border security (31% approve, 64% disapprove) and whether or not he is unifying Americans (37% approve, 56% disapprove).

Social Media & Stress

Almost 70% of respondents recognized politics as a minor source of stress, with 21% considering it a major source. Many reported that politics negatively impact their mental health and well-being.

When it comes to social media, a majority of Americans see online political discussion negatively, but still rely on it at least “a little” to stay informed.

Voters who use social media are more likely to describe politics as a source of stress than non-social media users.

“I think to a degree it's just the sheer volume of political noise that people are hearing on social media that's causing that stress,” said Neely. “I think anything that you feel bombarded with will cause some degree of kind of mental anxiety and I think that people are really bombarded by politics on social media right now.”

Polarization by political party

Republicans and Democrats were given a list of adjectives to describe the other party.

“Hypocritical” was the top choice for both, followed by “selfish.” This matches national trends of increased political polarization.

Many Republicans continue to express distrust in the election process and doubt whether their votes will be accurately counted in November. More than three-quarters of registered voters polled are “very confident” or “somewhat confident” that their votes will be counted accurately. More than 90% of Democrats agree, but only 60% of Republicans do.

The survey was conducted with a confidence level of 95% and a margin of error +/- 2.5.

For more detailed survey findings, click here.

Ari Angelo is a WUSF-USF Zimmerman Rush Family Digital News intern for spring of 2024.