For those of us working in the field, the term “resilience” carries deep meaning – full immersion in Florida’s pursuit of stronger infrastructure to mitigate threats both known and as yet unknown.
But to residents of the state we seek to protect, “resilience” evokes a substantial recognition of the challenges that lie ahead. In a recent scientific survey of Florida voters, we began with an open-ended question in order to better understand how people view the concept itself: What does ‘resilience’ mean to you?
It’s tough to get 5, much less 550, people to agree – but in this case, respondents were unified around a few clear themes. To them, resilience means the ability to bounce back, to recover, or to overcome adversity, and it suggests the ability to adapt to new circumstances, or build capacity.
That’s precisely what our organizations, at their core, are on a mission to accomplish in the areas of energy, agriculture, beaches, and infrastructure.
And Floridians agree that there’s a lot of work to do.
We asked respondents to rate how resilient they believe various industries are in the state, and even the very best industry – tourism and hospitality – was seen as “very resilient” by fewer than half (47%). The next best rated industries, construction and real estate, were viewed as “very resilient” by only about 3 in 10. Worse still, agriculture, health care, and transportation were seen as resilient by about 2 in 10, while manufacturing, energy, and insurance were seen as very resilient by just 16% each.
In other words, public confidence is low regarding the ability of various Florida industries to bounce back after harm, or adapt to new circumstances.
What, then, do Florida voters believe should be done?
The answer depends in part on who you’re asking. Concerns regarding many issues are shared by Floridians of both political parties, and across such other demographic groups as age, gender, or region of the state. These issues include water quality, which concerns the largest number of residents, and energy independence or coastal shoreline erosion, which concern equal portions of Republicans and Democrats.
There are, of course, certain issues that are of greater concern to only one party. Sea level rise, for example, was more commonly cited as a concern by Democrats, while food security was cited more by Republicans.
Despite somewhat different orientations on what Florida’s biggest threats are at this time, support for state investment in infrastructure is overwhelmingly strong across the board.
An overwhelming 85% said they would support additional efforts by state or local governments in Florida to invest in resilient infrastructure, regardless of whether they believe humans contribute to or can change the course of climate change.This is true for 80% of Republicans and 93% of Democrats – consistent with the finding that 82% of Florida voters believe the state is being impacted by climate change in one way or another.
More specific to resilience policy, respondents were given some information about municipal bonds and then asked whether they would support or oppose their city or county issuing a bond for resilience-related improvements in their area. More than three-quarters (78%) said they would favor such an action, with only 13% opposed and the remaining 9% unsure.
With widespread public concern matched by widespread support for resilience-related infrastructure projects, the time is right for Florida to continue, and amplify, a commitment to these investments.
The Florida Resilience Conference, to be held October 5-7 in Bonita Springs, will bring together state leaders, local governments, federal agencies, industry executives, and policy experts for in-depth discussion on Florida’s burgeoning resilience programs.
The conference program features concurrent sessions on beach management, agriculture, energy, and infrastructure, and many of the discussions are likely to be informed by these survey results
We hope you’ll join us and lend your voice to the ongoing dialogue.