Crist ahead of Scott in poll, but lead is narrowing

Published: Thursday, November 21, 2013 at 6:17 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, November 21, 2013 at 6:17 p.m.

TALLAHASSEE — With less than a year to go before the election, former Gov. Charlie Crist leads Gov. Rick Scott by a 47-40 percent margin in a new independent poll that shows Crist’s lead has narrowed.

“To some degree, this poll has good news for both candidates,” said Peter Brown, the assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, which conducted the poll.

Brown said Crist’s lead is a positive, while Scott benefits from the narrowing margin between the two leading candidates in next year’s governor’s race.

Crist’s lead has dropped from a 10-point margin in June and 16-point advantage in March in previous Quinnipiac polls. Brown said the difference between the current 7-point lead and the 10-point lead in June was marginal, but that the downward trend was in Scott’s favor.

But Scott’s job approval rating has shifted in the new survey to 42-47 percent from a 43-44 percent rating in June, according to Quinnipiac. Voters gave Crist a 53-36 percent job approval rating as governor.

Crist, a former Republican who has since joined the Democratic Party, leads former state Sen. Nan Rich by a 60-12 percent margin among Democratic voters — if there is a primary. Scott leads Rich 43-35 percent in a matchup, if Rich can overcome Crist’s substantial lead.

Poll respondents say Scott does not deserve to be re-elected by a 53-37 percent margin.

Scott is holding an 80-11 percent lead among Republicans, while Crist holds Democrats by an 86-4 percent margin in a head-to-head matchup. Crist leads 44-41 percent among independent voters and 50-34 percent among women voters.

“The formula for victory is pretty simple,” Brown said “Do a better job among your party people than the other guy does among his party people and win the independents.”

Respondents split 46-46 over whether Crist’s shift from the Republican Party to the Democrats is a positive or negative, while those polled say Scott is not honest or trustworthy by a 49-38 percent margin.

Opinion of Crist’s party switch has trended slightly downward, falling from a 50-40 percent approval rating in a March Quinnipiac survey.

Republican strategists also pointed to a decline in Crist’s favorability ratings, which have dropped from 47-33 percent favorable-unfavorable in December 2012 to 41-39 percent in the new survey. Scott’s favorability numbers remain upside down at 39-42 percent, although that is an improvement over his December 2012 rating of 31-43 percent.

“For Scott to win, he’s going to have to convince voters that Charlie was not a good governor and that he’s a political opportunist,” Brown said. “And we all expect he will spend tens of millions of dollars to make that argument. We’ll see whether it works or not.”

On other issues, respondents overwhelmingly support the medical use of marijuana by 82-16 percent in the Quinnipiac poll. The strong support ranged across voters from both major political parties and all the key demographic groups.

“If the folks who want to legalize medical marijuana in Florida can get their proposal on the ballot, they are overwhelmingly favored to prevail next November,” Brown said.

In a related question, the poll showed voters were split 48-46 percent in support of allowing Floridians to possess small amounts of marijuana for personal use.

Respondents also support the state’s “stand your ground” self-defense law by a 60-34 percent margin. Brown said support among Florida voters for the law has remained consistent in the Quinnipiac surveys.

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