Economic downturn dividing Floridians on their presidential pick

'It’s been a very challenging time, emotionally,' says booking agent Lauren Long
Posted at 6:56 PM, Oct 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-19 19:00:30-04

Do you know someone who lost their job this year due to COVID-19's economic crisis? With hundreds of thousands laid off, chances are you do -- it might have been you.

For many Floridians, their experiences during the downturn are now shaping decisions in the ballot box.

SPECIAL COVERAGE: Elections 2020

One of them is Orlando booking agent Lauren Long. She and her husband, a local musician, both saw business dry up as virus protections locked down the state.

"Everything stopped overnight," Long said. "A matter of 24 hours -- everything we had on the books was literally wiped away."

Across town, Drew Vigne, a University of Central Florida senior, missed the chance to intern with NASA as the coronvirus spread.

"The situation right now definitely isn't ideal," said Vigne.

Drew Vigne
Drew Vigne, a University of Central Florida student, is worried about the job outlook since the downturn in the economy.

The future mechanical engineer is left wondering if a condensed economy will impact his future job search after graduation.

"What's the greater good?" Vigne said. "What's going to benefit the greater good? I think, economically speaking, that's going to be to open things back up."

Central Florida was one of the hardest hits parts of the state -- a tourism epicenter. Both the restaurant and hospitality industries took the brunt of Florida's 1.1 million job losses. Families had to downsize homes, borrow money, and use the state's broken unemployment system.

"It’s been a very challenging time, emotionally, physically -- for everybody," Long said. "Some days are better than others, that's definitely for sure."

Lauren Long, Florida voter
Lauren Long of Orlando says the economic shutdown from COVID-19 had a negative impact on her job as a booking agent.

Economic concerns traditionally rank high in election cycles. This year is no exception.

According to recent polling from Ipsos, about 22 percent of likely Florida voters rank the economy as their top candidate trait.

"We know from research that the economy matters a lot," said Assistant Political Science Professor Hans Hassell with Florida State University.

What's different, Hassell said, the role the pandemic will play on the topic. Historically, he said, Republicans have had an advantage when it comes to economic issues.

"Our current economic condition is different because of the virus," Hassell said. "It's hard to say whether or not voters will penalize the president as much as they normally would."

Ipsos suggests a pretty even divide among Floridians. About 43 percent of people said the economy is doing well, while 48 percent disagree.

"The economic conditions have essentially washed out that fundamental advantage Republicans are expected to have," Hassell said.

Both candidates offer drastically different economic platforms. Joe Biden pushing:

  • $15 minimum wage
  • Higher taxes on corporations and the wealthy
  • Free community college

Trump promising to return to what was:

  • Keeping 2017 tax cuts
  • Bolstering manufacturing
  • Further pursuit of new foreign trade deals

Neither Vigne nor Long said their choice for president came easy. Vigne planned to support Trump, hoping to prevent another shutdown.

"I don’t really identify as a Republican or Democrat," he said. "I’m a capitalist, and I vote for the economy."

Long is leaning towards Biden.

"I'm not saying everything that's happened the last four years has been bad," said Long. "But, I also believe that after coming out of a pandemic, people want to see change, and we haven’t seen a lot of it."