ST. LEO, FL – A bit more than half of adults in Florida have a favorable opinion of the job performance of Republican Gov. Rick Scott, results from a new Saint Leo University Polling Institute ( survey show.

The responses were gathered online from 507 adults from March 3 to March 11, 2017. The margin of error for responses is plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

Respondents were asked to indicate whether they view favorably or unfavorably, and at what level of intensity, the work of the governor, who is now in his second four-year term.  It turns out that a combined percentage of 55.8 percent either strongly or somewhat approve of Scott. The combined unfavorable percentage is 39.2. Just under 5 percent were unsure.

Politician Very favorable Somewhat favorable Combined
Not at all favorable Somewhat
Combined unfavorables
Rick Scott 21.1% 34.7% 55.8% 21.1% 18.1% 39.2%

Sample of 507 respondents

“With the Florida economy humming along, it is no surprise that Governor Scott is enjoying solid favorability ratings,” said Frank Orlando, political scientist and director of the Saint Leo University Polling Institute. “This gives Scott a solid bargaining position in the current battle with Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran over the future of Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida.” (Corcoran is also a Republican.)

Even though Scott’s time as the state’s CEO is waning, the public’s current opinion of his job performance could still affect his career prospects. Republicans want someone to run against U.S. Senator Bill Nelson, a Democrat, when his current term expires at the end of 2018. Scott’s second term as governor also expires at the end of 2018, so he could conceivably run for the U.S. Senate.

The poll asked Republican respondents to choose from a list of potential U.S. Senate primary candidates for that race, imagining that the primary was being held that day. Scott was the clear leader with 44.6 percent. The next most popular answer was “I don’t know” at 26.3 percent.

Florida Congressmen Tom Rooney and Ron DeSantis, and former Rep. David Jolly, all failed to get even 10 percent individually.

The poll asked respondents whom they would support if the November 2018 election was being that day and they were presented with a choice between Scott and Nelson for Senate. The results are close, with Nelson’s support at 38.7 percent compared to Scott at 34.3 percent. Nearly 17 percent could not decide, and 10.3 percent said they want someone else.

“Rick Scott starts off as the strong favorite to win the GOP nomination,” Orlando said, “but it’s important to remember that Charlie Crist was once considered a shoe-in for the Republican nod in 2010.” Crist left a three-way primary contest that seemed unwinnable, and ran unsuccessfully as an independent for the seat ultimately won by Marco Rubio.

“Scott’s lead right now relies mainly on a name ID advantage, but the better the state is doing the better position he’ll be in,” Orlando continued. If he does win the primary, he’ll have his work cut out for him against incumbent Bill Nelson, who will also have the advantage of running against the president’s party in a midterm election.”

The survey also asked about other possible candidates for the 2018 election.

Democratic respondents were asked to choose from a list of names a candidate they would support if the party primary for the governor was being held that day. “I don’t know” was the most frequent answer with 35.5 percent of responses. Former Congressman Patrick Murphy, who opposed U.S. Senator Marco Rubio in the most recent election, came in next with 20.2 percent. Though Murphy was elected to Congress in 2012 and 2014, Saint Leo’s Orlando said it was the unsuccessful race against Rubio that gave Murphy enough name recognition statewide to be named so often by Democrats taking the survey.

John Morgan, the private attorney who advocated for medical marijuana’s legalization in Florida, attracted 9.4 percent of responses. He has said he might run for governor as a Democrat. Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, who officially confirmed in early March that he wants the governor’s office, gathered only 3.9 percent.

Among Republican respondents who answered the survey, a similar result was reported when they were asked to name a candidate they would support for the gubernatorial primary nomination if the election was that day. The most popular answer was “I don’t know,” selected by one-third of respondents. The next most popular choice was former television host and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee (who now lives in the Panhandle) at 29.7 percent. Florida native and politician Adam Putnam, currently state commissioner of agriculture and consumer services, received 12.6 percent.

The survey asked respondents from all political backgrounds whom they would support if the election was that day and the choices for governor were (Republican) Adam Putnam and (Democrat) John Morgan. It turns out 42.2 percent were undecided, while 25.6 percent chose Morgan and 19.5 selected Putnam. More than 12 percent wanted “someone else.”

“The biggest word in the gubernatorial race is still ʻuncertainty’,” said Orlando. “Most candidates are still doing their homework to decide if making a run is worth it.  Until the field crystallizes, we’ll continue to see results dominated by name ID.”

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 Our Research

METHODOLOGY: All surveys were conducted using an online survey instrument. The statewide poll of 507 adults was conducted from March 3 through March 11, 2017 and has a plus or minus 4.5 percent margin of error.

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


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 our 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. We welcome people of all faiths and of no religious affiliation, and encourage learners of all generations. We are committed to providing educational opportunities to our nation’s armed forces, our veterans, and their families. We are regionally accredited to award degrees ranging from the associate to the doctorate, and we guide all our students to develop their capacities for critical thinking, moral reflection, and lifelong learning and leadership.

We remain the faithful stewards of the beautiful lakeside University Campus in the Tampa Bay region of Florida, where our founding monks created the first Catholic college in the state in 1889. Serving nearly 15,000 students, we have expanded to downtown Tampa, to other sites in Florida and beyond, and maintain a physical presence in seven states. We provide highly respected online learning programs to students nationally and internationally. More than 82,000 alumni reside in all 50 states, in Washington, DC, in three U.S. territories, and in 76 countries.