New Statewide Polling Institute Survey Explores Popularity of Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio

March 25, 2015

Florida Republicans respond favorably to the prospect of either their former Gov. Jeb Bush or their current U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio running for president, according to a new survey conducted by the Saint Leo University Polling Institute.

According to the poll, 63 percent of Florida Republicans would like to see Bush run for president. Another question asked Sunshine State Republicans if they would like to see Rubio run, and 58 percent responded with a “yes.” But if voters were asked to choose between the two, 54 percent of Florida Republicans said they would support Bush, while 36 percent would choose Rubio.

In the politically mixed response base of Republicans, Democrats, and independent voters, the two leading Republicans generated split reactions. When asked about the former governor running for president, 45 percent of Florida voters said they would like to see Bush run and 45 percent said they would not. For Rubio, 40 percent would like him to run, but 45 percent would not.

“Florida Republicans seem to like both Governor Bush and Senator Rubio, and they are happy they may run for president,” said Frank Orlando, instructor of political science at Saint Leo University. “General election voters, as one would expect in a swing state like Florida, are split right down the middle.”

Another question looming in Florida that will affect Republican candidates involves the parameters for running the next Florida Republican presidential primary, noted the Saint Leo University political scientist. New conditions could affect either candidate’s potential for gaining delegates at the national GOP level.

Gov. Rick Scott recently signed a new bill that will move Florida’s primary to March 15. That particular date is important because of the Republican National Committee’s rules for awarding convention delegates to the top competitors. In states that wait until at least March 15 to hold primaries, the state Republican Party can opt to award all that state’s national delegates to the top vote-getter, instead of awarding delegates on a proportional basis among the field of candidates.

“It’s a huge thing (for a candidate for the Republican nomination for president) to win Florida early,” said Saint Leo’s Orlando. This could potentially be another huge boost to the Bush or Rubio campaigns, he added.

“It’s potentially great news for Jeb Bush’s delegate count, resulting in major resources being expended. Bush is pinning all his hopes on winning Florida. Even if he performs poorly in some of the early primary states, he knows that Florida can act as his firewall to reboot his campaign. This change makes Florida almost as consequential as it is in the general election,” remarked Orlando.

Rubio is in strong position for re-election to the U.S. Senate, should he choose to run again for his current office. Rubio’s re-elect rating is a solid 52 percent, according to the survey.

When likely Democratic Florida voters were asked about potential candidates they might support for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate, 7 percent said they would support U. S. Rep. Patrick Murphy. The 31-year-old congressman from Palm Beach County announced his candidacy on Monday, March 23, two days after the survey stopped accepting responses.

The online poll of 522 Florida adults, including 433 likely voters, was conducted between Sunday, March 15, and Saturday, March 21. The margin of error on political questions of likely voters is approximately 4 percent.

More Saint Leo University Polling Institute survey results about Florida and national politics and Pope Francis’ popularity, can be found here: http://polls.saintleo.edu.

Media Contacts: Kim Payne, staff writer and media coordinator, at kim.payne@saintleo.edu or (352) 588-7233/(717) 798-1508 or Jo-Ann Johnston, academic communications manager, at jo-ann.johnston@saintleo.edu or (352) 588-8237/(352)467-0843.