• Pre-Debate, Gillum in Lead over DeSantis for Governor
  • Some Voters Moved by a Trump Effect, Both Pro and Anti
  • Fouled Waterways Have Half of Voters Steamed
  • Down-Ticket Races Look Tight, with One in Five or More Still Undecided
  • Four Ballot Measures Tested in Survey

ST. LEO – Results from the Saint Leo University Polling Institute’s (http://polls.saintleo.edu) recent survey of nearly 700 registered, likely Florida voters show more respondents favor returning incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson to the U.S. Senate than replacing him with outgoing Republican Governor Rick Scott.

Nelson was selected by 46.6 percent of those surveyed as their choice for the U.S. Senate seat, compared to 38.4 percent who said they want Scott. Respondents who are unsure accounted for 9.3 percent, and those who want someone else amounted to 5.7 percent.

The response base of 698 registered likely voters completed the survey online between October 16 and October 22, 2018. The margin of error for the results is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Of the survey base, 35.5 percent are Republicans; 38.1 percent are Democrats; 24.4 percent are unaffiliated; and 1 percent belong to another party. That left another 1 percent who said they are unsure.

Interestingly, a higher percentage of respondents have good opinions of the work Scott is doing than apparently want him as a U.S. Senator. A total of 55 percent said they rate the governor well; 26.1 percent regard his work performance very favorably, and 28.9 percent regard his work somewhat favorably. Scott’s combined unfavorable rating is 38.7 percent, as 18.1 percent said they rate his work somewhat unfavorably, and 20.6 percent said they rate his performance not at all favorably. Only 6.3 percent said they are unsure.

Voter approval in one elected office does not necessarily carry a politician into a new office, explained Frank Orlando, director of the Saint Leo University Polling Institute and a political scientist. “The difference between Scott’s approval as governor and his vote share as senator is not as contradictory as it appears. While voters seem to appreciate the job he is doing as governor, they may be less likely to support him as another Republican vote in the Senate supporting the Trump administration,” Orlando said.

The survey also showed a preference in the gubernatorial race for Tallahassee Mayor and Democrat Andrew Gillum over Republican Ron DeSantis, who has been endorsed by President Donald J. Trump and who resigned his seat as a U.S. Representative recently to run for governor. The survey, administered before the candidates’ debate in Broward County Wednesday evening, October 24, showed Gillum with the support of 48.6 percent of the respondents, compared to the 36.8 percent who favored DeSantis. At the time, 11 percent were unsure.

Saint Leo’s Orlando commented that, “It appears as though Gillum has the advantage right now, but he’s going to have to continue to answer questions about alleged corruption in his administration in Tallahassee down the stretch.” Orlando added that he wonders about Gillum’s prospects from this point on: “Has he built enough of a cushion to shrug off that issue?”

The survey also listed a number of issues that have been in the news and asked respondents, which they considered motivating factors to vote. Multiple responses were allowed. The results are shown in declining order.

    Possible Motivating Factors to Vote %
The problems of red tide along Florida coastlines 51.3
The problems of toxic algae blooms in Florida water bodies 50.3
A desire for more gun control after the Parkland shooting 43.4
Climate change 37.0
To register opposition to President Trump 32.2
To show support for President Trump (essentially tied with line above) 29.2
Other / unsure 9.7

“The president is a very polarizing figure,” Orlando commented, “so it’s not surprising that almost two-thirds of voters are motivated to vote because of him. The fact that a little more are motivated against him is probably not a good sign for the top of the ticket.”

Other Candidates for Florida State Office

When respondents were asked about other head-to-head electoral races for statewide office in Florida, Democrats showed an edge in the results, though party affiliations were not supplied with the questions. But there were also higher percentages of undecided individuals among the base of registered likely voters.

Florida Attorney General %
Sean Shaw (D) 39.7
Ashley Moody (R) 36.1
Someone else 2.6
Unsure / Undecided 21.6


Florida Agriculture Commissioner %
Nikki Fried (D) 40.0
Matt Caldwell (R) 32.7
Someone else 4.0
Unsure / Undecided 23.4


Florida Chief Financial Officer %
Jeremy Ring (D) 37.4
Jimmy Patronis (R) 34.2
Someone else 3.9
Unsure / Undecided 24.5


Reviewing these results, political scientist Orlando said: “It’s clear that the top of the ticket is lifting up Democrats and dragging down Republicans in our sample. Ashley Moody and Jimmy Patronis are at least in a position to overcome the tide, but they’ll probably need some ticket splitting to make it.”

Proposed Amendments to the Florida Constitution

Florida voters are also going to be asked their opinion on whether 12 measures on the ballot should be approved, and in so doing, change the state constitution. For a measure to pass, it requires the approval of 60 percent of the voters. The survey asked respondents about four of the proposals and how they would vote.

Ballot Measures Proposed Yes Vote  % No Vote % Unsure %
Allows Florida voters, through citizen-initiated ballot measures, the right to decide whether to authorize casino gambling in Florida 69.6 16.3 14.0
Restores (automatically) the right to vote for people with prior felony convictions (except those convicted of murder, felony sexual offense) following completion of their respective sentences 64.3 23.8 11.9
Requires a two-thirds vote of each Florida state legislative chamber to enact new taxes or fees or increases to existing taxes or fees 61.2 20.5 18.3
Adds specific rights for victims of crimes, increases the judicial retirement ages from 70 to 75, and stops state courts from deferring interpretation of state statutes or rulings on lawsuits to state administrative agencies 55.9 20.9 23.2

“There’s a lot of support for these amendments, but that support declines as the amendment becomes more complex,” Orlando noted. “Amendment 6 [on judicial matters] may not be able to overcome the fact that it is weighed down with three different components. Voters who may agree with some parts and not others may just end up voting the whole thing down. Still, a strong advertising campaign may be able to get it over the 60-percent barrier.”

About the Poll
METHODOLOGY: The poll sampled opinions of 698 registered likely voters in Florida. The survey was conducted October 16 through October 22, 2018, using an online survey instrument. The Florida poll has a +/- 3.5 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: 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) 588-8237 or (352) 467-0843 (cell/text).     

Mary McCoy, Saint Leo University, University Communications mary.mccoy02@saintleo.edu or (352) 588-7118 or (813) 610-8416 (cell/text).

More About Saint Leo University
Saint Leo University (www.saintleo.edu) 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.