Florida Governor Also Leads Potential Democratic Challengers for Job Democrat Demings Trails U.S. Senator Rubio in U.S. Senate Race

ST. LEO, FL – The most recent poll of 500 Floridians by the Saint Leo University Polling Institute (polls.saintleo.edu) shows that more than half of respondents (58.8 percent) say they approve of the job Governor Ron DeSantis is doing, a slight increase from polling in the fall when 56.4 percent said he was doing a good job.

Likewise, 58.8 percent of respondents say his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic meets their approval, the poll shows. The online poll was conducted between February 28 and March 12, in Florida where the Saint Leo University Polling Institute is based, and the poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points. The poll was conducted during a time frame when DeSantis described mask wearing as “COVID theater.” The governor was staunchly against lockdowns and mandates in response to the pandemic.

Saint Leo’s recent poll shows 38 percent of respondents strongly approve and 20.8 percent somewhat approve of DeSantis’ handling of the COVID crisis while 9.2 percent somewhat disapprove, 26.8 percent strongly disapprove, and 5.2 percent say they are unsure.

In regard to the governor’s overall performance in leading Florida, the survey asked respondents the following question, with results shown below.

How would you rate the job Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is doing? Would you say you…

Possible responses   %
Strongly approve 37.4
Somewhat approve 21.4
Combined approving 58.8
Somewhat disapprove 11.4
Strong disapprove 25.4
Combined disapproving 36.8
Unsure   4.4


Polling results in October 2021 found 56.4 percent said they approved of the job DeSantis is doing while 40.6 percent said they did not approve of his performance. In Saint Leo’s polling in 2021, DeSantis’s approval came in at 57.6 percent while those not approving of the job he was doing numbered 34.8 percent.

“Governor DeSantis is benefitting from a strong economy and a lack of COVID cases in the state over the past few months,” said Frank Orlando, director of the Saint Leo University Polling Institute and a political scientist. “While he gets lots of national attention for provoking the ire of liberals on things like masking, it doesn’t seem to hurt him in Florida, and in fact continues to raise his national profile.”

The Republican DeSantis is seeking re-election in what is expected to be one of the country’s most closely watched gubernatorial races of 2022; however, he also is considered to be a contender for a future presidential race, possibly in 2024.

Presidential possibilities

In a question regarding “notable and possible candidates” for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024, former President Donald J. Trump and DeSantis top the list among the Florida poll respondents at 64.3 percent and 55.5 percent, respectively. This was among those polled who identified as Republican party members.

The Saint Leo poll also posed a scenario in which Trump was not a candidate. Respondents overwhelmingly say they would choose Florida Governor DeSantis at 65.9 percent with former Vice President Mike Pence receiving the next highest percentage at 26.9 percent while 23.6 percent of respondents say they would like to see Donald Trump Jr. run for president.

Looking at the governor’s race

The survey asked respondents about how they would vote in three potential matchups featuring DeSantis and Democratic gubernatorial challengers if the November 2022 election was held on the day they completed the survey. Those surveyed were provided the names only with no descriptions or party designations.

The potential matchup questions were asked in the following order with these results:

  • In the case of DeSantis versus Annette Taddeo, who is a Democratic Florida state senator from Miami: 48.6 percent chose DeSantis; 29.6 percent selected Taddeo; and 21.8 percent were unsure.
  • In the case of DeSantis versus Charlie Crist, who is now a Democratic Congressman from St. Petersburg but who was elected governor of Florida (2007-2011) as a Republican: 49.2 percent selected DeSantis; 32.8 percent said they would vote for Crist; and 18 percent were unsure.
  • In the instance of DeSantis versus Nikki Fried, Florida’s commissioner of agriculture and consumer services and a Democrat: DeSantis was chosen by 50.6 percent of respondents; Fried was selected by 27 percent; and 22.4 percent were unsure.

“As long as the governor’s approval ratings remain in the upper 50s [percentage], it’s hard to see him losing in 2022, which promises to be a strong year for Republicans nationwide,” said Orlando, director of the polling institute. “Due to increased name ID, it’s important to look at the percentage of respondents supporting the incumbent. Being close to 50 percent in all three of the races means that he is in relatively powerful position moving forward, but we should expect tightening once the Dems pick their nominee.”

Examining U.S. Senate Preferences

The Saint Leo University Polling Institute asked Floridians if they approved of the job their U.S. Senators are doing as well as who they would vote for in future elections. The survey found that 53.6 percent approve Republican U.S. Senator Marco Rubio’s performance with 23 percent strongly approving and 30.6 somewhat approving. Of the 35.2 percent who say they do not approve, 13 percent somewhat disapprove and 22.2 percent strongly disapprove.

For Republican U.S. Senator Rick Scott, his job performance ratings are similar with 55.2 percent approving—23.4 percent strongly approving and 31.8 percent somewhat approving. Of those responding, 31.8 percent combined say they do not approve of Scott’s performance, 9.8 percent somewhat and 22 percent strongly disapproving.

Looking at the November election, the Saint Leo poll asked if respondents would choose Rubio or Val Demings if the election was held on the day they were polled. The results are:

  • Rubio: 0 percent
  • Demings: 4 percent
  • Unsure: 6 percent

Demings was not identified by party or profession in the poll question. A Democrat, Demings has represented part of Orlando in the U.S. House of Representatives since 2017; her current term extends through 2022. She is also known locally in and around Orlando as a retired chief of the Orlando Police Department and career law enforcement professional.

“Marco Rubio looks to benefit, as does Ron DeSantis, from a strong Republican midterm environment,” Orlando said. “He’s in a less stable position and facing a more difficult opponent who doesn’t need to first win a primary in Val Demings. Despite that, these numbers confirm that he is still the betting favorite to win re-election.”

About the Poll

METHODOLOGY: This national survey was conducted February 28 – March 12, among a base of 1,000 respondents nationally, using an online instrument. The national sample has an associated margin of error of +/- 3.0 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence for questions asked of all 1,000 respondents.

A statewide survey was also conducted during the same time period, among a base of 500 Florida respondents, using an online instrument. The sample has an associated margin of error of +/- 4.5 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence for questions asked of all 500 respondents.

The Saint Leo University Polling Institute conducts its surveys using cutting-edge online methodology, which is rapidly transforming the field of survey research. The sample is drawn from large online panels, which allow for random selections that reflect accurate cross sections of all demographic groups. Online methodology has the additional advantage of allowing participants to respond to the survey at a time, place, and speed that is convenient to them, which may result in more thoughtful answers. The Saint Leo University Polling Institute develops the questionnaires, administers the surveys, and conducts analysis of the results. Panel participants typically receive a token incentive—usually $1 deposited into an iTunes or Amazon account—for their participation.

The Saint Leo University Polling Institute survey results about national and Florida politics, public policy issues, Pope Francis’ popularity, and other topics, can also be found here: http://polls.saintleo.edu. You can also follow the institute on Twitter @saintleopolls.

About Saint Leo University

Saint Leo University is one of the largest Catholic universities in the nation, offering 62 degree programs to more than 15,800 students each year. Founded in 1889 by Benedictine monks and sisters, the private, nonprofit university is known for providing a values-based education to learners of all backgrounds and ages in the liberal arts tradition. Saint Leo is regionally accredited and offers a residential campus in the Tampa Bay region of Florida, 16 education centers in five states, and an online program for students anywhere. The university is home to more than 100,000 alumni. Learn more at saintleo.edu.

Media contact: Mary McCoy, Saint Leo University, University Writer & Media Relations, mary.mccoy02@saintleo.edu, (352) 588-7118 or cell (813) 610-8416.