Graham, DeSantis, Scott Lead in Inaugural Haas Political Poll

Aug 27, 2018

Credit Haas Center

The Haas Center at the University of West Florida is out with its first-ever political poll, focusing on the gubernatorial and U.S. Senate races.

The survey was conducted from July 30-August 13, involving 610 respondents in 18 Panhandle counties.

“We wanted to focus on something that had a statewide presence, but we also focus regionally. So our poll only goes through the Panhandle, a little bit past Tallahassee,” said Haas Assistant Director Amy Newburn.

“And we wanted to do that because, when you’re doing a statewide survey it’s easy to get a statistically significant sample, but it’s harder to get a feel from a specific region. So we wanted to see how the Panhandle is feeling, and was that distinct from what other statewide surveys might be saying.”

Crunching the numbers, they show Republican gubernatorial candidates Ron DeSantis and Adam Putnam in a statistical dead heat among registered Republicans, similar to other parts of Florida. DeSantis is slightly ahead 30-28 percent but within the four percentage point margin of error. Eighteen percent are undecided.

“Now, when you look at independents or third-party that might ultimately favor one candidate over the other, those that leaned Republican did say that they favored DeSantis 3-1 over Putnam,” said Newburn.

By Florida law, No Party Affiliation – NPA – voters are ineligible to cast ballots in primaries. But Newburn says there was no requirement that respondents to the Haas poll had to be a registered Democrat or Republican. They were asked specifically about the governor’s race.

“We asked [independents] if they could choose to vote, which of the elections they would vote in – either the Republican race or the Democratic race,” said Newburn. “And then we also asked them which one of the candidates they preferred.”

On the more-crowded Democratic side, Newburn says former Congresswoman Gwen Graham was the choice of respondents who are likely to vote Democratic, with Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum a distant second.

“Thirty-nine percent of the registered Democrats in the region favored [Graham], while 17 percent supported Gillum,” Newburn said. “That’s not exactly how it’s been shaking out in other statewide regions. But of course Andrew Gillum is from Tallahassee and Leon County is included in our sample.”

The remaining Democratic votes were spread out among Jeff Greene, Christopher King, and Phillip Levine. Seventeen percent of Democrats were undecided.

Amy Newburn, Assistant Director of the Haas Business Center at the University of West Florida.
Credit Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media

Turning to the race for U.S. Senate, Republican Rick Scott is the Panhandle favorite, 41-34 percent over Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson.

“About 16 percent of registered Panhandle voters said that they were still unsure, and only three percent of our respondents said that they did not know any of the candidates,” said Newburn. “We did not ask about issues; it was all about preference for certain candidates as well as likelihood of voting.”

The methodology used in the poll involved the data-handling firm Qualtrics, which pulled numbers in the region that met both residential and voter requirements.

“We pulled the demographic results of all of the registered voters in those same counties and we looked at the gender distribution, race and ethnicity,” said Newburn. “And then we matched the political poll results to that, to make sure that we were doing a sample that really looked like our voters in the Panhandle.”

As mentioned, this is the first political survey conducted by the Haas Center, but it’s not the last. Newburn says two other polls are in the works.

“We’re going to do a political trust survey that will be statewide,” she said. “We’re going to do that immediately after the primary built on some of our work with [the Escambia] Supervisor of Elections. We’re also going to do a political poll before the general election as well, likely in October.”

According to an average of major polls by the website, Ron DeSantis has a seven-point lead over Adam Putnam on the Republican side in the governor’s race. Gwen Graham leads Philip Levine, also by seven points among Democrats. In the Senate race, Rick Scott leads Bill Nelson by roughly a point and a half.