Barack Obama and Rick Scott In Florida Voters’ Eyes: From Lousy to Dismal
FlaglerLive | April 10, 2011
President Barack Obama is not doing well in Florida according to the latest Quinnipiac University poll, and if he were running again today, voters say they’d rather choose an unnamed Republican by 41 to 38 percent. Obama’s disapproval with Florida voters is at 52 percent, up three points since February, with 44 percent of voters approving. The numbers don’t bode well for Obama, who announced his reelection bid last week. Florida is not essential to his reelection. But it’s important, especially in light of the state’s two additional electoral votes, at the expense of more liberal, solidly Obama states.
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, Florida’s lone remaining statewide elected Democrat, is doing better, with a 47 percent approval rating against 26 percent disapproval. He’d win against an unnamed Republican, 43 to 39 percent: not a comforting margin for an incumbent.
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If Obama’s fortunes are poor, Gov. Rick Scott’s are dismal. Just 35 percent of Floridians approve of Scott’s performance as governor so far. That’s the same approval rating Scott drew in February. But his disapproval numbers have more than doubled, from 22 percent in February to 48 percent this month.
Likability is still a big win for Obama: he gets 70 percent approval in that category in Florida, even if only 41 percent like his policies, but only 40 percent like Scott personally, and just 34 percent like his policies.
And 60 percent of Floridians are dissatisfied with the way things are going in Florida—an increase from the depth of the Great Recession: in February 2009, one month into the Obama administration, 55 percent of Floridians disapproved of the state’s direction. The dissatisfaction dovetails a recent Florida Chamber of Commerce poll showing 21 percent of Floridians willing to leave the state for better fortunes elsewhere.
Some 53 percent of Floridians say Scott’s state budget proposals are unfair to them.
Scott is still doing well among Republicans, with a 58 percent approval, but Republicans are a minority in a state where Independents are the fastest-growing bloc of voters. Through February this year, 36 percent of Floridians were registered Republican, 41 percent were registered Democrats, and 23 percent were registered Independent. Republicans and Democrats have both lost ground since 2008. Independents have gained ground. Among Independents, Scott garners just 33 percent approval, and 12 percent among Democrats.
Scott has a serious problem with women, too. Only 26 percent of women (no matter their registration) approve of him, and 55 percent disapprove. Among men, Scott has 45 percent approval and 41 percent disapproval.
The Florida state Legislature’s disapproval rating mirrors Scott’s almost exactly: 47 percent of voters disapprove, just 35 percent approve. That’s the lowest rating since April 2008, when it was 32 percent, and a big drop since September 2004, when it was 51 percent.
Some of Scott’s proposals, which would not affect most Floridians, get big support, among them the proposal to drug-test all new state employees while random-testing existing employees. That proposal gets 78 percent approval. And 59 percent of voters think it’s a good idea to make state employees should contribute part of the cost of their retirement. But a large majority of voters (57 percent) disapprove of the new law—the first that Scott signed—tying teacher pay to students’ performance on such things as standardized tests, and voters are split over the law’s abolishing teacher tenure, and making it easier for school districts to fire teachers.
Some 47 percent of voters are also opposed to a proposal that would forbid unions from collecting dues from state workers’ paychecks (43 percent approve), a surprisingly high disapproval number in a state traditionally disinclined to support unions, and where “right to work” is the law.
When it comes to taxes and spending cuts, voters are confused. They disapprove of Scott’s handling the budget by a sizeable, 55 to 36 percent margin. They don’t trust Scott’s no-tax pledge by an even bigger margin of 64 to 24 percent, saying that the budget cannot be balanced without raising taxes, and 52 percent say Scott should not have made such a pledge. At the same time, 65 percent prefer not raising taxes, and balancing the budget only through budget cuts—which is what Scott has pledged to do. Yet only 33 percent of Floridians think Scott’s spending cuts will help the state, while 40 percent say it will hurt. And only 44 percent say Scott’s proposal to cut $2 billion in property and business taxes are a good idea, even if they’re designed to make the state more attractive to business and create more jobs. This in a state with 11.5 percent unemployment, one of the highest unemployment rates in the country.
“Today, Scott is a four-letter word to many Florida voters,” Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, said, “but political popularity can change with time. The experience of Scott’s predecessor, Charlie Crist, who had 70 percent approval ratings at this point in his tenure, shows how fickle public opinion can be.”
In May 2006, for example, Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Davis was ahead of then-State Attorney Charlie Crist in the race for governor, 40 to 37 percent. The race was too close to call 10 days from the election. But Crist won with 52 percent to Davis’s 45 percent.
The same fickleness will likely affect presidential race numbers, especially if Republicans settle on one of their more extreme possibilities (Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee), one of their less charismatic ones (Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, John Thune, Chris Christie) or their more esoteric dark horses (Donald Trump, Ron Paul).
“With President Barack Obama formally announcing his re-election campaign this week, one can expect that his team will be focusing on Florida, one of the nation’s preeminent swing states and one that the president carried in 2008,” Brown said. “He has some work to do in the Sunshine State. On job approval, re-election and the matchup against an unnamed republican he does a good deal better among women than he does among men.”
Other poll findings from Florida voters: 51 percent approve of legislation that would require a woman to view an ultrasound of her fetus before undergoing an abortion. But Quinnipiac’s question on the matter was erroneous. It is already the law for women seeking an abortion in the second trimester to view an ultrasound. The proposal would make it mandatory in the first trimester as well (when most women get an abortion). The question does not make the distinction.
Support for Congress repealing the “health care law” that passed last year is 49 to 41 percent, rising to 54 percent when the question is phrased as the “health care reform law.”
Some 60 percent of voters support increasing offshore drilling for oil and gas, but voters are split on nuclear power, with 48 percent in support, and 47 percent against, building new nuclear plants in the state—but 58 percent opposed to those nuclear plants if they’re to be built in their city or town.
Support for the war in Afghanistan continues to deteriorate, with 59 percent of Floridians saying the United States should no longer be involved in that war. Floridians are split, 46 to 46, on Obama’s handling of the war in Libya.
Quinnipiac University surveyed 1,499 registered voters between March 29 and April 4. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points.