Poll: Scott Is "A Divisive Figure", Voters Prefer Nelson & Rubio

Feb 11, 2015

Bill Nelson, Marco Rubio, Rick Scott

Republican incumbent Rick Scott rallied the voters in November for a come-from-behind win over Democratic challenger Charlie Crist, but that doesn’t mean he’s popular with them, according to a new poll from Quinnipiac University.

The Governor gets a 42% job approval rating from 936 Florida voters, who were contacted from January 22 to February 1. But 47% percent disapprove, similar to the numbers from Scott’s first term.

Charles Zelden, a political scientist at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, says the other key to victory for Scott was turnout, or lack thereof, in Democratic strongholds downstate.

“If Broward County had turned out, in the numbers that it would in a presidential year, Charlie Crist would have won the election,” said Zelden. “But, Broward County turned out 43%. Democrats can’t win in a statewide race if Broward County, Palm Beach County, Miami-Dade County don’t come out in good numbers.”

Despite the respondents’’ disdain of the governor, the poll also shows the majority (53%) are optimistic about their financial situations over the next four years. Fifty-nine percent rate the state’s economy as “good” or “excellent.” Zelden believes that Scott did not make much of a case for his claims that his actions turned around the economy.

The poll did not ask questions related to the controversy over the departure of FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey, so it is not clear whether that had any effect on the numbers. After last week’s Cabinet meeting in Tamps, Scott conceded that he could have "handled it better."

Scoring higher than Scott are Florida’s two U.S. Senators. Democrat Bill Nelson’s approval is 43% with only 26% not in favor. Republican Marco Rubio gets 47% approval, with a 35% disapproval rate. Zelden says Rubio’s higher negatives can be tied to his political ambitions.

“He’s caught in that horrible trap of being both a senator and a potential presidential candidate,” Zelden said. “And so he’s finding himself taking positions that at times, will anger either has base – because he’s doing the senator thing, or it’s going to anger Floridians because he’s doing the president thing.”

The new Florida poll comes at the same time Quinnipiac surveyed votes in Ohio and Pennsylvania. The states were chosen because they are expected to be crucial during the 2016 presidential election.