• The conservative governor and Trump ally appears to please more people than he displeases with his approach to the pandemic
  • Florida’s two U.S. Senators get favorable marks from about half of those surveyed

ST. LEO, FL – Nearly 58 percent of Florida residents strongly approve or somewhat approve of the job Governor Ron DeSantis has been doing, according to the latest survey by the Saint Leo University Polling Institute (https://polls.saintleo.edu).

That’s an improvement from the 50.4 percent positive-response level recorded about the governor in October, 2020, but is still below the 66.4 percent approval level the state’s top executive had in February 2020, before the COVID-19 outbreak changed daily life.

The most recent poll was completed online between February 7, 2021 and February 14, 2021, by 500 respondents across the state. Given the size of the survey base, the results could be in error by plus or minus 4.5 percentage points from actual sentiments at the time.

When asked how strongly they approve or disapprove of DeSantis’ job performance overall, respondents answered as shown.

Strongly approve 34.2%
Somewhat approve 23.4%
Combined approval 57.6%
Somewhat disapprove 10.2%
Strongly disapprove 24.6%
Combined disapprove 34.8%


As grappling with the health, economic, and educational effects of COVID-19 has dominated the work of the state’s top executive in recent months, the polling institute asked further, specific questions relating to hot-button topics. Respondents rated their governor on specific pandemic-related challenges by indicating the same levels of approval or disapproval they applied in assessing his work generally.

Saint Leo University Polling Institute Director Frank Orlando explained that results for the governor’s COVID-related job performance are “basically equal” to his overall rating. “It shows that almost everything is being filtered through the lens of how you deal with the pandemic,” said Orlando, who is also a political science instructor at Saint Leo University.

For instance, when respondents were asked specifically about the governor’s job performance regarding:

  • Handling the COVID pandemic in Florida – On this, 34.0 percent say they strongly approve while another 22.6 percent say they somewhat approve, for a combined 56.6 percent approving, nearly the same as the overall job rating. Those who somewhat disapprove amount to 10.8 percent while 27.6 percent strongly disapprove, amounting to more than one-third (38.4 percent) of those responding.
  • Supporting and re-opening the economy/business in Florida – The governor’s ratings edged higher in response to this question, with 36.6 percent reporting they strongly approve and 24.2 percent who say they somewhat approve for a sum of 60.8 percent who approve. On the other hand, about one-third (34.2 percent) are dissatisfied, with 13.8 percent who say they somewhat disapprove and 20.4 percent who register strong disapproval.
  • Rolling the vaccine out as it becomes available – More than one-third, at 38 percent strongly approve of DeSantis on this point and another 24.2 percent somewhat approve, making the sum 62.2 percent, for the highest satisfaction recorded among the categories. Those who say they somewhat disapprove were 12.6 percent of respondents and those who strongly disapprove came to 18 percent, for 30.6 percent combined. Orlando, the polling director, noted that “Although there have been some missteps, Florida has consistently evaded the doomsday scenarios that most of the national media predicted for a state with such a high number of elderly residents. Voters are clearly rewarding him for this here.”
  • Handling the re-opening of public K-12 schools in Florida – More than half, at 55.6 percent approve of the schools re-opening policy, with 35.2 percent who say they strongly approve and 20.4 percent who say they somewhat approve. Those who somewhat disapprove amount to 16 percent of the sample, and 20.4 percent said they strongly disapprove, for a sum of 36.4 percent, or just over one-third.

The Florida state legislative session begins next week and DeSantis, who has held many press briefings related to the COVID vaccine roll-out, may also be prominent during the lawmaking session and state budget negotiations. In the meantime, the governor is scheduled to give a welcome address Friday morning, February 26, in the city of Orlando for the start of the 2021 Conservative Political Action Conference, a popular and well-covered event for conservatives.

Polling Institute Director Orlando observed that the Florida governor is already getting some media exposure outside the state among GOP voters that appears to be good for his national profile. DeSantis was ranked, in another part of the survey, among the top five Republicans who the national sample GOP voters could support in a 2024 presidential primary if Donald Trump does not run.

“I think it’s also important to mention that the negative national stories about Florida’s response to COVID have actually increased Governor DeSantis’s standing nationwide, especially among conservatives who see him as sufficiently loyal to Donald Trump, combative to the media, but competent enough to get the job done.”

Job approval ratings of the two U.S. Senators

During the February survey, the polling institute also asked respondents their opinions of the work performed by the junior U.S. Senator Rick Scott, who was the previous governor; and by the senior U.S. Senator Marco Rubio. Both are Republicans and considered possible presidential candidates in the future (as is DeSantis), and as Rubio was in 2016.

Scott and Rubio each had enough respondents who say they strongly and somewhat approve of the work each is doing to have approvals of at least half the response base. Scott had 54 percent who approve and Rubio had 50.6 percent. Those numbers contrast with lower combined approval ratings from October 2020 of 44.8 percent for Scott and 48 percent for Rubio.

The recent numbers bring them back into the same 50-percent range the senators occupied in February 2020.

“Neither of the senators is as popular as Governor DeSantis,” Orlando said, “and part of the reason for that is that is that it is harder to win over independent and Democratic voters if you are only ever voting on divisive issues. They are getting support from Republican voters, but the balancing act of not offending Trump supporters is limiting their ability to rack up higher approval.”

About the Poll

METHODOLOGY: The statewide survey was also conducted from February 7, 2021, through February 14, 2021, among a base of 500 respondents, using an online instrument. The sample has an associated margin of error of +/- 4.5 percent points at a 95 percent confidence for questions asked of all 500 respondents.

The reference to a part of the survey reflecting views collected nationwide comes from a parallel survey conducted among 1,000 respondents, also during the timeframe between February 7, 2021, and February 14, 2021. The overall national survey has an associated margin of error of +/- 3.0 percent at a 95 percent confidence for questions asked of all 1,000 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.

Media contacts:

Jo-Ann Johnston, Saint Leo University, University Communications jo-ann.johnston@saintleo.edu or (352) 467-0843 (cell/text).   

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

About Saint Leo University

Saint Leo University is one of the largest Catholic universities in the nation, offering 57 undergraduate and graduate-level degree programs to more than 18,200 students each year. Founded in 1889 by Benedictine monks, 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 98,000 alumni. Learn more at saintleo.edu.