Presidential Race Up for Grabs in Florida

| Tom Jensen

PPP’s newest Florida poll finds a very tight race for President in the state. In the full field Donald Trump gets 44% to 43% for Hillary Clinton, with Gary Johnson at 5%, and Jill Stein and Evan McMullin each at 1%. But in a head to head between Clinton and Trump, the nominal lead flips to Clinton at 47/46. That’s because voters who support one of the minor candidates or are undecided in the full field pick Clinton by 12 points over Trump if they had to choose just between the two major candidates.

Much has been made about how Trump will struggle in Florida because of his weakness with minorities and that’s certainly the case. Among non-white voters he trails Clinton by 49 points, getting just 22% to her 71%. But white voters still make up the majority in the state, and with them Trump has a 27 point advantage with them at 60/33. If he’s able to win the white vote by that much, Clinton doesn’t have much chance of running away with the race in Florida. The state will be the same toss up it’s accustomed to being.

Florida might go either way this year but there are signs within the poll that are good news for Democrats’ long term prospects in the state. Among voters under 45 Clinton leads Trump 57/31, and when you extend that to voters under 65 Clinton keeps a 50/41 advantage. It’s only Trump’s 59/39 lead with seniors that keeps things in toss up territory overall, but those voters aren’t going to do Republicans much good 20 or 30 years down the line.

Floridians say if they had to choose between another four years of Barack Obama or electing Trump as President, they’d keep Obama by a 50/45 spread. One thing that both shows Clinton’s difficulty in winning over Democratic leaning voters but also shows that she may have more room for growth in Florida is that among voters who are undecided between her and Trump, 54% of them would rather have Obama as President to only 13% who would go for Trump. Clinton’s lead would grow by a couple points if those folks voted their Clinton/Trump preference in line with the party of their Obama/Trump preference. That’s also a data point that shows how useful Obama can be to Clinton out on the trail.

62% of voters in the state think Trump needs to release his tax returns, to only 29% who don’t think it’s necessary for him to do so. 75% of Trump voters in Florida think that if Hillary Clinton wins the election it will only be because it was rigged on her behalf, to just 15% who say it would be because she received more votes.

In the US Senate race Marco Rubio leads Patrick Murphy 40/37, but one thing that’s particularly notable is that Libertarian Paul Stanton pulls 10% of the vote at this point. That’s a reflection of the choice Floridians face at this point. Rubio is not popular, with only 35% of voters approving of the job he’s doing to 45% who disapprove. But Murphy is relatively unknown with 47% of voters having no opinion about him one way or another- he does have a 29/24 favorability rating among those who are familiar with him. These are the conditions that can lead to a third party candidate doing well and right now Stanton is benefiting from that dynamic.

One thing that could hurt Rubio down the line is his unwillingness to commit to serving out his term if reelected. 60% of voters say candidates running for the Senate should pledge to serve their entire 6 year term, to only 21% who say it isn’t necessary for them to do that. That’s one of several issues we found on this poll where Rubio is at odds with the voters:

-89% of voters support background checks on all gun purchases to only 9% who oppose them. There’s support from 94% of Democrats, 86% of Republicans, and 81% of independents.

-86% of voters support barring those on the Terror Watch List from buying guns to just 8% against that. There’s support from 90% of Democrats, 84% of Republicans, and 80% of independents for closing the terror gap.

-59% of voters support an assault weapons ban to just 34% opposed to one. Democrats (79/15) are far more unified in support of such a ban than Republicans (38/53) are in opposition to one.

-63% of voters think the Senate should move Merrick Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court forward by holding hearings on it to only 16% who are opposed to that. There’s bipartisan support with Democrats (75/5), independents (69/12), and Republicans (44/31) all in favor of hearings.

-76% of voters would like to see the minimum wage increased to at least $10 an hour, to only 12% who think the current wage is acceptable and 9% who think there just shouldn’t be a federal minimum wage at all. There’s support from 91% of Democrats, 71% of independents, and 60% of Republicans for hiking the minimum wage to at least $10 an hour.

Other notes from Florida:

-It looks like the second time will be the charm on medical marijuana in the state. 70% of voters support Amendment 2, to only 23% who are opposed to it. In addition to strong support from Democrats (81/13) and independents (70/21), there’s also a majority of Republicans (55/38) in support this time around.

-Bill Nelson is the state’s most popular politician, with a 41/30 approval rating. Rick Scott continues to be unpopular with only 42% of voters approving of him to 47% who disapprove. Nevertheless a hypothetical 2018 contest between the two would still be somewhat competitive- Nelson would start out ahead by 4 points at 45/41.

-Floridians want to see Congress pass a clean bill to fund efforts to fight Zika, 80/7. Democrats (85/3), Republicans (76/10), and independents (73/12) all overwhelmingly want to see Congress stop playing games and just pass a bill that deals with the virus without attaching anything else to it. Only 35% of voters place the blame for the lack of a Zika funding bill so far on President Obama, to 50% who say Congress is at fault for the impasse. 

-Jeb Bush has a 40/46 favorability rating in Florida, with some unusual party splits. He’s well above average popular for a Republican with Democrats, as 32% of Democrats rate him positively to only 46% who have a negative opinion of him. But he’s also well below average popular for a Republican with Republicans, as only 51% of them see him positively to 42% who have an unfavorable opinion.

-In the wake of last week’s controversy we find that tacos and taco trucks are pretty popular among voters who have opinions on them. Tacos have a +36 net favorability with 47% of voters seeing them positively to 11% with a negative view. And taco trucks have a +30 net favorability with 42% of voters seeing them positively to 12% with a negative view. There’s a pretty significant party divide on the ‘issue’ of taco trucks though- they’re at +43 with Democrats (51/8) but only +7 with Republicans (23/16).

-Finally we took our periodic look at sports loyalties in the state. Florida and Florida State are all tied up on the college front with 24% saying they’re a fan of each school. Central Florida at 11%, Miami at 10%, South Florida at 7%, and Florida Atlantic and Florida International each at 4% round out the FBS schools in the state.

It says something about in migration to Florida and the futility of the 2 in state teams that the most popular MLB team in the state is….the Yankees at 15%. The Marlins and Rays each get 14%, and the Braves also hit double digits at 11%. Rounding out the field are the Red Sox at 9%, Cubs at 5%, Mets at 4%, and Phillies at 2%.

On the NFL front the Dolphins win out with 20% to 15% for the Buccaneers. The Cowboys at 10% edge out the home state Jaguars who tie with the Giants at 9%, followed by the Patriots at 7%, Packers at 6%, and Jets at 2%.

Full results here

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