Support for the Anti-Solar Amendment 1 Is Plummeting, Poll Says

Nearly every major newspaper in Florida has told people to avoid Amendment 1 like a nest of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. The amendment is deceptive and designed to prevent Floridians from obtaining solar panels despite fraudulently claiming to be pro-solar. It's being pushed by corporations such as Florida Power & Light, ExxonMobil, and Koch Industries.

Floridians finally seem to be getting the message about the bogus amendment. According to a new poll released by Saint Leo University, support for Amendment 1 has dropped from 84 percent of the state in September to 59.8 percent in October.

Because 60 percent of voters need to approve the amendment before it passes, Saint Leo's poll shows that — if the downward trend continues — citizens are on their way to killing the initiative.

For now, it's still a tight race, though the combined effort of newspaper editorial boards and activist mailers and demonstrations seems to be working.

“This movement away from support for Amendment 1 is a sign that the social media campaign is working,” Frank Orlando, Saint Leo University's Polling Institute director, said in a release. “Opponents of Amendment 1 clearly don’t have the financial power that the utility companies do, but they’ve been very effective at getting their message out via forums like Facebook. In addition, the fact that almost every major newspaper has come out against the amendment has made this a much tighter race."

For more than a year, environmental activists have warned that Amendment 1 is written to trick consumers. The group Consumers for Smart Solar backs the bill, but that group is actually made up of fossil fuel companies and appears to have nary a "consumer" in its midst.

Consumers for Smart Solar claims the new amendment will give people the right to own solar panels for their homes. But consumers already have this right — instead, the rest of the bill's text basically ensures that utility companies control solar power in Florida for the rest of time. This is bad, because utility companies such as FPL are the very reason the Sunshine State has few solar panels to begin with.

If Amendment 1 passes, critics say, the new rules could actually make it more expensive for people to own solar panels at home.

In case the bill's wording wasn't clear enough: Last month, the Miami Herald obtained audio of one of the bill's backers straight-up admitting Amendment 1 was written to deceive people. (But the oil-industry influence was clear already: Rolling Stone reported in 2015 that Consumers for Smart Solar was formed only to distract people from a real pro-solar ballot initiative that never passed.)

Oddly, Saint Leo's poll said support for the amendment had jumped from 77 percent in June to the aforementioned 84 percent in September. It took a strong-armed media campaign to persuade people that oil-industry executives were working to deceive them.

Imagine that: Florida seems to be listening to newspapers for once.
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Jerry Iannelli is a former staff writer for Miami New Times from 2015 to March 2020. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.