Florida poll: Nelson edges Scott for U.S. Senate; low marks for Rubio

2:42 p.m Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2018 Nation & World
President Donald Trump and Gov. Rick Scott meet with law enforcement officers and first responders in Fort Lauderdale two days after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

Florida Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson edges his expected challenger, Republican Gov. Rick Scott, in a new Quinnipiac University poll, which also finds voters disapproving of President Donald Trump and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio and having little knowledge of any candidates for governor.

Nelson, seeking a fourth term this year, gets 46 percent support to 42 percent for Scott, who faces term limits as governor and is expected to run against Nelson. The poll of 1,156 Florida voters has a 3.6 percent margin of error; it was conducted Friday through Monday using live calls to landlines and cell phones.

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Trump, who narrowly won Florida in 2016 on his way to the White House, gets a 42 percent approval rating in the state with 54 percent disapproving. Rubio, who was re-elected by nearly 8 points in 2016, gets 38 percent approval and 53 percent disapproval in the new poll.

In the race for governor, Republican Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is the best-known candidate — but 75 percent of voters say they haven’t heard enough about him to have an opinion. For other gubernatorial candidates, between 83 percent and 93 percent of voters haven’t formed opinions.

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When voters were asked which party they plan to vote for in the governor’s race, Democrats hold a 45-to-37 percent advantage. Republicans have held the Florida governorship since 1999.

In both the U.S. Senate and governor’s races, 42 percent of voters say they are less likely to support a candidate who supports Trump. Only 23 percent say they would be more likely to vote for a pro-Trump candidate in the Senate race and only 22 percent in the governor’s race.

Scott has been a key ally of Trump, who has publicly urged him to run for Senate. One of the Republican candidates for governor, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis of Palm Coast, has also touted his support for Trump after Trump said DeSantis would “make a GREAT Governor of Florida” in a December tweet.

Even with the presidential shout-out, 83 percent of all voters, and 75 percent of Republicans, say they haven’t heard enough about DeSantis to have an opinion of him.

Scott has usually had negative approval ratings in seven years of polling by Quinnipiac. But in the new poll, 49 percent of Florida voters approve of the way he’s handling his job in the poll while 40 percent disapprove. Nelson’s job performance gets the approval of 48 percent and disapproval of 34 percent.

A majority of Florida voters — 55 percent — say they are somewhat or very satisfied with the way things are going in Florida while 44 percent are dissatisfied.

In Quinnipiac’s sample, 32 percent of respondents said they consider themselves Democrats, 30 percent identified as Republicans and 33 percent said they are independent or no party, with 5 percent saying they don’t know. Actual Florida registrations are 37.3 percent Democrat, 35.3 percent Republican with the remainder, 27.4 percent, belonging to no party or minor parties.

Quinnipiac’s U.S. Senate results are consistent with other recent Florida polls.

A Mason-Dixon poll this month showed the Nelson-Scott race too close to call, while a University of North Florida poll gave Nelson a 6-point lead and a Gravis Marketing survey showed Nelson up by 4 points.

Quinnipiac’s final Florida poll before the 2016 election showed the presidential race too close to call, with Democrat Hillary Clinton getting 46 percent, Trump 45 percent and Libertarian Gary Johnson at 2 percent in a poll with a 3.3 percent margin of error. Trump ended up winning the state with 49 percent to Clinton’s 47.8 percent and 2.2 percent for Johnson.

Quinnipiac polling also gave Rubio a 50-to-43 percent lead over Democratic challenger Patrick Murphy on the eve of the 2016 election. Rubio won with 52 percent to 44.3 percent for Murphy.