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PolitiFact Florida | Tampa Bay Times
Sorting out the truth in state politics

PolitiFact: Nelson jumps the gun on Florida's population rank

The statement

"My state of Florida is now the third-largest state. We have surpassed New York in population."

Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., April 8 in a hearing

The ruling

On Dec. 30, the Census Bureau released estimates through July 2013 that showed that New York narrowly held on to its spot as the third-most-populous state, behind California and Texas. New York had 19,651,127 residents, while Florida had 19,552,860. The next such release of data will be in December.

So why did Nelson think Florida had already surpassed New York? His spokesman pointed to a March article in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune about new growth estimates released for Sarasota, Manatee and Charlotte counties for July 2010 through July 2013.

"As a result, Florida last month likely edged New York to become the third-most-populous state in the nation, based on bureau estimates and a Herald-Tribune analysis of the data," the article stated. "During that three-year period, Florida's population grew by an average of 645 people daily, while New York's grew by some 231 a day."

"If you look at the recent trends, it certainly appeared that Florida would pass New York somewhere between July 2013 and June of 2014," Stan Smith of the Bureau of Economic and Business Research at the University of Florida told the Herald-Tribune.

We sent Nelson's statement and the Herald-Tribune article to a few demographers in Florida and New York and asked whether they thought Nelson could declare Florida already in third place. All of the experts told us we would need to wait for official numbers from the census.

"Florida will probably pass New York this year, but there is no guarantee," Smith told PolitiFact.

"You will need to wait for proof," said Andrew Beveridge, a professor at Queens College and an expert on census data.

Amy Baker, the coordinator of Florida's Office of Economic and Demographic Research, said the office believes, based on its own data, that Florida will surpass New York "sometime in late 2015 or early 2016. If the Census Bureau has a better handle on our growth than we do, the date would be sooner. But even then, you would need the next set of census data to confirm."

We rate this claim Mostly False.

Amy Sherman, PolitiFact Florida

Edited for print. Read the full version at

PolitiFact: Nelson jumps the gun on Florida's population rank 04/14/14 [Last modified: Monday, April 14, 2014 8:20pm]
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