New Poll from Saint Leo Highlights State Gubernatorial Contest

March 26, 2014

The Saint Leo University Polling Institute began releasing a new series of survey results from March with public opinion findings on a range of hot political topics, including attitudes toward state and national political figures, the Affordable Care Act, immigration, minimum wage, and marijuana legalization.

The institute’s recent poll on statewide politics concerns voter attitudes and the upcoming gubernatorial election in November. Former Governor Charlie Crist narrowly leads incumbent Governor Rick Scott in the governor’s race by 43-39 – a result within the margin of error – but Governor Scott is closing the gap since December, according to the poll.

In a December Saint Leo University poll, Mr. Crist led Scott, 46-34, or by 12 points. The new poll shows an 8-point swing in Scott’s direction, though the incumbent Republican still trails Mr. Crist.

"Our polling shows good news for Governor Scott, as he's been able to take a sizable chunk out of Charlie Crist's lead,” said Frank Orlando (pictured), political science instructor at Saint Leo University. “Governor Scott has shored up some Republican voters, but he's also doing about as well among independents and members of the opposing party as Mr. Crist. This is surprising, considering the fact that Crist, a former Republican, was expected to do well among Republicans and independents.”

Mr. Orlando added: “It's also important to note that according to our polling, Floridians strongly disapprove of the job that President Obama is doing in the White House. This type of national feeling can make its way into state and local elections by damaging the party's brand name. If President Obama's approval ratings continue to fall, Scott will profit at the polls."

Governor Scott’s overall favorability rating is 48 percent favorable and 47 percent unfavorable. The governor’s approval rating among Republicans is 79/18 – up a net of 22 points since the December poll. His overall job approval rating is 45/47 and 75/21 among Republicans – up 20 points since December. Then, Governor Scott led Mr. Crist among Republicans, 65-17 (+48). Now Governor Scott leads 75-13 (+62), a 14 point swing. By contrast, President Obama’s job approval rating in the state is 39/60 in the most recent poll, slipping since 44/53 in December.

The recent poll also compared incumbent Scott’s appeal in the upcoming governor’s race to another prospective Democratic candidate, Nan Rich. The survey found the governor leads Ms. Rich, 40-32.

In other Florida results, U.S. Senator Bill Nelson’s approval rating stands at 50/33 (+17), his favorability rating is 49/37 (+12), and his re-elect rating is at 40 percent.

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio’s approval rating is 50/40 (+10), his favorability rating is 50/41 (+9), and his re-elect rating is 46 percent.

President Obama’s job approval rating among likely voters in Florida is 39/50 (-11). Congress’s job approval rating is 14/84 (-70).

On policy issues, a majority of voters, 52 percent, say that knowing a member of Congress had voted for the Affordable Care Act would make them less likely to vote for that person. Twenty- nine percent said they would be more likely to vote for such a member of Congress. There is a strong partisan intensity gap on the issue, with 87 percent of Republicans saying support for the ACA would make them less likely to vote for a member of Congress, and 52 percent of Democrats say support for the ACA would make them more likely to vote for a member of Congress. Seventy-seven percent of Republicans say they are “much less likely” to vote for a pro-ACA member, and 27 percent of Democrat “much more likely” to vote that way.

On immigration, a majority of Florida voters support a path to legal status for illegal or undocumented immigrants, but a strong minority opposes allowing this population to remain in the United States under any conditions.

  • 61 percent support a path to legal status under certain conditions
  • 29 percent think this population should not be allowed to remain in the U.S.
  • 9 percent support allowing this population to stay and to apply for citizenship

“Florida Republicans are more likely than our national sample of Republicans to support a path to legal status. Fifty-five percent of Florida Republicans support a path to legal status while 37 percent think this population should not be allowed to stay in the United States. Nationally, the numbers are nearly reversed (39 percent support a path to legal status, while 54 percent say this population should not be allowed to remain in the United States,” said Mr. Orlando, of the poltical science faculty.

The Florida legislature is currently considering a bill that would allow undocumented students to attend Florida public colleges at in-state tuition rates. Voters are split on this idea, with 32 percent saying they should be charged in-state rates, 36 percent saying out-of state rates, and 19 percent saying undocumented persons should not be allowed to attend state colleges at all.

On marijuana legalization, 30 percent say marijuana should be legal for any purpose; 45 percent say it should be legal for only approved medical purposes; and 19 percent say marijuana should not be legal for any purpose.

On the minimum wage, voters support raising the minimum wage by a 3-to-1 margin. Seventy-three percent support raising the minimum wage (42 percent strongly support, 31 percent somewhat support). On the other side, 24 percent oppose raising the minimum wage (12 percent somewhat oppose, 12 percent strongly oppose).

About the Saint Leo University Polling Institute/Methodology

The data is derived from a poll of 500 Florida adult residents conducted by the Saint Leo University Polling Institute between March 16 and 19, 2014 and includes 401 likely voters. The margin of error is approximately five percent +/- with a 95 percent confidence level. The Saint Leo University Polling Institute conducts its surveys using cutting-edge online methodology, which is rapidly transforming the field of survey research. The institute’s executive director is Dr. Andrew (Drew) Gold, associate professor of management at Saint Leo University.

To view the Florida political and policy results, including methodology, visit the polling institute’s website, http://polls.saintleo.edu You can also follow the institute on Twitter @saintleopolls. Saint Leo’s main website is www.saintleo.edu.