With 2018 -- and a potential bid for the U.S. Senate -- right around the corner, new poll results should give Gov. Rick Scott a reason to smile.
On Friday, Saint Leo University Polling Institute released a survey which found the two-term Florida governor growing in popularity, and Scott is leading his potential Democratic Senate opponent Bill Nelson ahead of next year.
The most recent numbers of the online-only poll show Scott with a double-digit lead over Nelson, taking 41.8 percent to Nelson’s 31.6 percent.
That figure is a significant jump over the last nine months -- Scott was behind Nelson by four points in March.
When it came to how voters viewed Scott, over two-thirds -- nearly 61 percent -- said they viewed the governor either somewhat favorably or very favorably, an increase from 55 percent who said the same in March this year.
Nelson and Scott’s potential matchup numbers look less and less rosy for Nelson, who nearly 39 percent of likely voters supported in March. That number has continued to drop, while Scott’s has steadily climbed.
“We’re still almost a year out from the 2018 elections, but Rick Scott is in the best position he’s been in yet against incumbent Bill Nelson,” said Frank Orlando, director of the polling institute and a political scientist who teaches at the university. “It will be interesting to see if he can maintain this support while his party is hurting electorally throughout the country.”
Saint Leo attributed Scott’s growing support in part due to his high profile appearances around the state during this year’s hurricane season, which was particularly active for Florida.
“Rick Scott has enjoyed consistently strong approval ratings during 2017, and he certainly received a small bump for the way he handled a difficult hurricane season for the state of Florida,” Orlando said.
The economy, too, could have been a factor in the boom in Scott’s approval rate as well.
“As the state’s economy continues to grow, his overall approval comes as no surprise,” Orlando continued.
Scott hasn’t declared he’s running for the Senate yet, but both Republicans and Democrats expect him to jump in the race for Washington.
If the latest polls are any indicator, the race will be undeniably close. National Democrats have been ramping up their efforts against Scott, who has already spent millions of dollars on advertising well before he has even entered the race.
The poll's methodology is slightly unusual, however, as the survey was conducted entirely online and during the Thanksgiving holiday. Respondents were also promised a "token incentive" of $1 towards Amazon or iTunes for their participation in the survey.
The survey of 500 voters was conducted Nov. 19-24 and has a margin of error of +/- 4.5 percent with a confidence level of 95 percent.