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Q-Poll Finds Honeymoon Over for Rick Scott

April 5, 2011 - 6:00pm

A poll conducted by Quinnipiac University and released on Wednesday found Florida voters souring on Gov. Rick Scott, with 48 percent disapproving of his performance in office and 35 percent supporting it.

Scotts disapproval numbers spiked dramatically from Quinnipiacs last survey in early February when the governor won 35 percent approval and 22 percent disapproval. The poll found Scott remained more popular among fellow Republicans, winning their approval 58 percent to 25 percent, but his stock among Democrats and, more importantly, independents remains low. Only 12 percent of Democrats approved of Scott as opposed to 74 percent who disapproved, while 33 percent of independents approved of the governor compared to 48 percent who disapproved. Scott also generated a gender gap with women disapproving his performance 55 percent to 26 percent, while 45 percent of men approved of his job compared to 41 percent who disapproved of it.

Today, Scott is a four-letter word to many Florida voters, but political popularity can change with time, said Peter Brown,assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. The experience of Scotts predecessor, Charlie Crist, who had 70 percent approval ratings at this point in his tenure, shows how fickle public opinion can be.

But Scott is not the only unpopular politician in Tallahassee. The poll also found that Florida voters did not care for the way the Legislature is doing its job, giving it 35 percent approval and 47 percent disapproval. With their party in firm control of both chambers, Republicans approved of the Legislature 49 percent to 33 percent. Democrats gave it much lower marks with 24 percent approval and 57 percent disapproval. Less than a third of independents -- 32 percent -- approved of the Legislatures performance while 53 percent disapproved.

The fact that Scott is as unpopular as the state Legislature, which has a 47 [percent] to 35 percent disapproval rating, is evidence of the depth of his problem, said Brown. It is exceedingly rare for an unindicted governor or president to ever be seen as poorly by the electorate as his legislature or Congress.

Most of those surveyed -- 60 percent -- expressed dissatisfaction with Floridas direction while 40 percent thought the Sunshine State was heading on the right track and 95 percent of those surveyed thought that the states budget situation was very or somewhat serious. The poll found Floridians soured on Scotts budget proposal, with 36 percent approving and 55 percent disapproving it. When asked if the governors proposed budget was fair, the poll generated a similar response -- 37 percent thought it was fair as opposed to 53 percent who maintained it was unfair.

Asked if Scotts budget proposal went too far in making cuts or not far enough, 47 percent said it went too far while 16 percent maintained it did not go far enough. More then a quarter -- 29 percent -- thought Scotts budget proposal was about right. While 40 percent believed Scotts budget proposal would hurt the economy, 33 percent thought it would help revive it. The poll found that the public does not believe Scott will be able to keep his promise not to raise taxes or fees with only 24 percent thinking he will keep his word, while 64 percent think he will not. The poll found 44 percent backed Scotts call to lower business and property taxes while 49 percent opposed it. The poll also found that Floridians overwhelmingly backed cutting government to raising taxes in order to balance the budget, 65 percent to 29 percent.

While the poll found that large segments of voters disapproved of Scott and his budget proposal, it also found support for a number of the governors proposals. Fifty-nine percent of those surveyed, including 67 percent of independents, supported the governors call for state workers to send part of their annual salaries to back their own pensions, while 36 percent maintained it was a bad idea. Back in February, 64 percent backed the governors proposal and 28 percent opposed it. An overwhelming majority -- including a large majority of voters from both parties and independents -- supported Scotts idea for mandatory drug testing of new state workers and random tests for current ones, with 78 percent backing the proposal and 20 percent opposing it.

The teacher performance pay reform passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Scott garnered mixed marks. Voters disapproved of it in general -- 57 percent of those surveyed opposing it with 39 percent backing it -- and were split evenly, with 47 percent falling on both sides, on the measure abolishing tenure for newly hired public school teachers.

The poll also found Floridians divided on a bill banning public-sector unions from using automatic payroll deductions to bring in union dues, with 43 percent supporting the bill and 47 percent opposing it. However, voters were much higher on a proposal contained in the bill requiring a union to get the approval of a member before using his dues for political purposes, with 74 percent -- including a majority of both parties and independents -- backing the idea and 22 percent opposing it.

Brown maintained the polls findings could be grim tidings for Scott who is up for another term in 2014.

It would be rare that a governor who is perceived by the electorate as unfair gets re-elected, said Brown. A total of 95 percent of Florida voters say the states budget problems are very or somewhat serious. They know something has to be done, but they want someone who treats them fairly in that process.

The poll of 1,499 registered voters was taken between March 29 and April 4 and had a margin of error of +/- 2.5 percent.

Reach Kevin Derby at or at (850) 727-0859.

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