All Articles Leadership Examining political leanings in Fla.

Examining political leanings in Fla.

6 min read


Once again, Florida is shaping up to be a key swing state in a presidential election. 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 and 2008. In 2008, Barack Obama won 51% of the vote and John McCain won 47% of the vote. Analysts expect a close election this year. The Rasmussen poll taken Oct. 26 shows Mitt 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 Tuesday 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 bit more diverse than the total U.S. population, though its makeup 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% of adults in Florida identify themselves as Hispanic and 14.4% of adults in Florida identify themselves as black.

Here are some key demographic statistics about Florida:

Demographic Variable



2011 Median Age



2010 % Male / % Female



2011 Median Household Income



% Hispanic 18+ Population



% Black 18+ Population



2010 Median Home Value

$ 130,344


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 with 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


Consider self very conservative


Consider self somewhat conservative


Consider self middle of the road


Consider self somewhat liberal


Consider self very liberal


Sources: Esri, GfK MRI

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

Florida politics Market Potential Index

Click on image to enlarge interactive map

Where people live in Florida does seem to reflect their political leanings. Areas around the larger cities such as Miami/Fort 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


Up and Coming Families


Milk and Cookies


Silver and Gold


The Elders


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 U.S. levels.

Map of Florida by Tapestry Segment

Click on image to enlarge map.


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 Obama was sworn in as U.S. president in January 2009, Florida had an unemployment rate of 8.9%, which was higher than the national number of 7.8%. Florida’s unemployment rate continues to be higher than the national rate. In September 2012, that number had decreased slightly to 8.6% compared to 7.8% nationally. The rate for each county in Florida varies based on its individual situation.

Florida unemployment change: January 2009 – September 2012

Click on image to enlarge map.

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% in January 2009 to 5.5% in September 2012.

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

Why does this matter?

Understanding the diverse demographics of the people who live in Florida can help Obama and 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 makeup 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 or to learn more about Esri in general, go to

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