October 21, 2021

60th Anniversary

Then & Now: 1958 Florida vs. Florida today

Politics, demographics, the economy and headlines.

Mike Vogel | 4/27/2018

Every sector of the state’s economy has grown over the decades, some faster than others.

Then and Now: Where Floridians Work


Then: 16% of non-farm workforce
Now: 4%


Then: 10%
Now: 6%


Then: 16%
Now: 13%

Finance, Insurance, Real Estate

Then: 6%
Now: 7%

Trade, Transportation, Utilities

Then: 35%
Now: 20%


Then: 16%
Now: 48%


Then: NA
Now: 1.6%

Information didn’t exist as a category in the 1950s.


Then: 45,100 farms
Now: 47,000


Then: 136 per 100,000 Floridians
Now: 505


Then: 120 per 100,000
Now: 253 (2012)


Then: 46 per 100,000
Now: 52 (2016)

Then and Now: Politics


1958 — LeRoy Collins, Democrat
2018 — Rick Scott, Republican

U.S. Senators

1958 — George Smathers, Democrat Spessard Holland, Democrat
2018 — Bill Nelson, Democrat, Marco Rubio, Republican

State Senate President

1958 — William Shands, Democrat
2018 — Joe Negron, Republican

Speaker of House

1958 — Doyle Conner, Democrat
2018 — Richard Corcoran, Republican


In 1958, Democrats ruled Florida. Registered Democrats totaled 1.2 million to the GOP’s 216,000 (and just 12,000 as “other”), and the party’s power showed in its domination of elected office. Republicans didn’t have an edge in any county in Florida. Indeed, the total number of Republicans across several North Florida counties could have fit on a school bus with room to spare for a pep band. But, as Florida historian Gary Mormino has written, “In the summer of 1958, the Sunshine State’s Republican Party stood on the threshold of change.”

Today, 4.8 million Floridians are registered Democrats to 4.55 million Republicans. Minor parties have nearly 69,000 members, and 3.5 million Floridians have registered with no party affiliation — the fastest-growing sector of the electorate.

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