Governor to speak at start of regular legislative session March 5 in Tallahassee

ST. LEO, FL – Newly elected Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican, appears to have impressed Florida voters even beyond his party, a recent Saint Leo University Polling Institute survey ( indicates. Nearly 64 percent of those polled between February 16 and February 25 said they strongly approve or somewhat approve of the job DeSantis is doing in leading the Sunshine State.

Of the 500 respondents polled, 27.8 percent said they strongly approve of the chief executive’s performance and 36 percent somewhat approve, for a combined 63.8 percent. Another 20.8 percent said they are unsure, while the combined total of those who said they disapprove strongly (6.8 percent) or somewhat disapprove (8.6 percent) came to 15.4 percent. The margin of error for overall results from the Florida survey is plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

Looking at the approval ratings from different groups among the survey base, Republicans, predictably, showed the highest proportion of those who are complimentary about the new governor’s job performance, with 87.9 percent registering approval. Among independents, 58.9 percent gave DeSantis positive job approval ratings, compared to 45.4 percent of Democrats.

“Given the contentious nature of the gubernatorial campaign, it would have been hard to imagine that Governor DeSantis would enjoy this level of approval just a few months later,” said Saint Leo University Polling Institute Director Frank Orlando. “However, he has made a series of actions that have put him into the good graces of not only the Republicans who supported him, but also a decent percentage of Democrats.”

For instance, DeSantis announced plans to clean fouled waterways in Florida and tend to polluted coastlines, and announced grants for communities in the Panhandle devastated by Hurricane Michael in 2018.

“It will be interesting to see how long this honeymoon period lasts, ” Orlando said.

The results also show that more survey respondents are positive about their new governor than they are about either of their U.S. senators or the president. The combined approval ratings for new U.S. Senator Rick Scott (the Republican who preceded DeSantis as governor) and fellow Republican U.S. Senator Marco Rubio were both around 50 percent. Scott has been in his new job only as long as DeSantis has, while Rubio has been in the U.S. Senate since 2011.

“Rick Scott is not enjoying the same support he did during a large portion of his time as governor, but along with Marco Rubio is enjoying net positive approval,” noted Orlando, who also teaches political science at the university. “This illustrates the fact that it is easier for governors to receive bipartisan support than it is for federal officials,” Orlando said. “Almost everything that U.S. senators do is viewed through the frame of national polarized politics.”

Approval or disapproval levels from Floridians Governor Ron DeSantis President
Donald J. Trump

U.S. Senator Rick Scott

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio
Strongly approve 27.8% 27% 24.6% 19.8%
Somewhat approve 36% 18% 25.6% 30.2%
Combined approvals 63.8% 45% 50.2% 50%
Somewhat disapprove 8.6% 9.6% 13.8% 19.6%
Strongly disapprove 6.8% 43.6% 21% 18.8%
Combined disapprovals 15.4% 53.2% 34.8% 38.4%
Unsure 20.8% 1.8% 15% 11.6%

Meanwhile, the combined approval ratings from Florida for President Donald J. Trump, who supported DeSantis in the gubernatorial race, were at 45 percent. “President Trump has slightly higher approval in Florida than he has nationally (39.8 percent), which is a good sign for him” because of Florida’s size and significance, Orlando commented. “On the other hand, his net approval is still below water. If President Trump loses Florida in 2020, it’s hard to see a route to re-election.”

Survey respondents unsure about changes ordered in K-12 education
A hot issue among voters, especially parents in Florida, has been an emphasis on high-stakes, standardized testing of school children on some academic subjects. Testing has been used as a means to measure the success of schools, teachers, and children’s readiness to be promoted. A closely related issue in Florida has been the use of Common Core, which was developed among many states to set standards for students’ reading and math levels at various grades.

DeSantis has already announced that he wants less testing and different standards, and directed new Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran (former speaker of the Florida Legislature) to work on those goals.

“A strongly identified belief that over-testing is a significant issue was uncovered in this poll,” noted Dr. Karen Hahn, professor of education at Saint Leo University.

“Only about one-third of the respondents indicated that there is a need to get rid of the Common Core standards,” she said, referring to the responses collected to these two specific questions, which were asked in this order.

Governor DeSantis ordered the removal of Common Core teaching standards for language arts and math from Florida schools in favor of new Florida teaching standards that he wants developed. Which of the following statements best describe your reaction to his order?  Please indicate all that apply

Test statements % in agreement
The governor is right, and we need to get rid of Common Core standards 36%
It is over-testing of students that is the real problem and that should
be fixed as opposed to the Common Core standards themselves
New standards are a good idea, but it could be expensive and hard to do 16.8%
Other states use Common Sore and I am afraid Florida students
might be poorly prepared under new standards
Common Core standards are not the way I was taught 15%
Don’t know / unsure 22%

Note: Responses add up to more than 100% because multiple selections were permitted.

Governor DeSantis has directed the Florida commissioner of education to “streamline the testing process.” Would you say you…

Strongly approve 29.2%
Somewhat approve 32.8%
Combined approvals 62%
Somewhat disapprove 12.4%
Strongly disapprove 6%
Combined disapprovals 18.4%
Unsure/don’t know 19.6%


About the Poll
METHODOLOGY: This statewide survey was conducted from February 16 through February 25, 2019, among a base of 500 respondents, using an online instrument. The Florida poll has a +/- 4.5 percent margin of error at a 95 percent confidence level (on a composite basis).

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: You can also follow the institute on Twitter @saintleopolls.

Media contacts: Jo-Ann Johnston, Saint Leo University, University Communications or (352) 588-8237 or (352) 467-0843 (cell/text).     

Mary McCoy, Saint Leo University, University Communications or (352) 588-7118 or (813) 610-8416 (cell/text).

More About Saint Leo University
Saint Leo University ( is a modern Catholic teaching university that is firmly grounded in the liberal arts tradition and the timeless Benedictine wisdom that seeks balanced growth of mind, body, and spirit. The Saint Leo University of today is a private, nonprofit institution that creates hospitable learning communities wherever students want to be or need to be, whether that is a campus classroom, a web-based environment, an employer’s worksite, a military base, or an office park. Saint Leo welcomes people of all faiths and of no religious affiliation, and encourages learners of all generations. The university is committed to providing educational opportunities to the nation’s armed forces, veterans, and their families. Saint Leo is regionally accredited to award degrees ranging from the associate to the doctorate, and the faculty and staff guide all students to develop their capacities for critical thinking, moral reflection, and lifelong learning and leadership.

The university remains the faithful steward of the beautiful lakeside University Campus in the Tampa Bay region of Florida, where its founding monks created the first Catholic college in the state in 1889. Serving nearly 12,000 students, Saint Leo has expanded to downtown Tampa, to other sites in Florida and beyond, and maintains a physical presence in seven states. The university provides highly respected online learning programs to students nationally and internationally. More than 93,000 alumni reside in all 50 states, in Washington, DC, in three U.S. territories, and in 76 countries.