ST. LEO, FL – A new survey by the Saint Leo University Polling Institute shows six out of 10 Florida residents hold a favorable opinion of current and term-limited Gov. Rick Scott’s job performance. The survey also shows Scott seems to be gaining in popularity in the widely anticipated U.S. Senate contest coming in November 2018 between Republican Scott and incumbent Senator Bill Nelson, a Democrat.

The survey was conducted online November 19 through November 24, 2017 (Thanksgiving week), among 500 residents statewide. The margin of error for responses is + or – 4.5 percentage points. The polling institute has been tracking the favorable/unfavorable ratings of Scott over time with this question, receiving the following responses.

Would you say your opinion of the job Florida Governor Rick Scott is doing is…?

Rating of FL Governor Rick Scott March 2017 – % September 2017 – % November 2017 – %
Very favorable 21.1 26.6 24.2
Somewhat favorable 34.7 35.2 36.4
Total: Very and Somewhat favorable 55.8 61.8 60.6
Somewhat unfavorable 18.1 15.2 16.2
Not at all favorable 21.1 14.8 15.0
Total: Somewhat unfavorable and Not at all favorable 39.2 30.0 31.2
Unsure 4.9 8.2 8.2

Scott improved his unfavorable ratings in September notably by dropping 9 percentage points from the previous results in March. The September poll was conducted as Hurricane Irma was making its way through the state, and during a period when Scott was highly visible traveling around the peninsula to stress citizen preparedness and safety, noted Frank Orlando, director of the polling institute and a political scientist who teaches at Saint Leo University. “Rick Scott has enjoyed consistently strong approval ratings during 2017, and he certainly received a small bump for the way he handled a difficult hurricane season for the state of Florida,” Orlando said. “As the state’s economy continues to grow, his overall approval comes as no surprise.”

Meanwhile, the Republicans among the survey base (there were 166) were polled as to their primary-electoral choice for a candidate to run for U.S. Senate against Nelson, and Scott topped the field with 54.2 percent. No one else came close, or even into the double digits.

The general survey base of all respondents were also asked about the U.S. Senate race. The actual question and overall responses since March were:

If the 2018 election for Florida United States Senator was held today and the
candidates were Bill Nelson and Rick Scott, which would you support?

Florida U.S. Senator March 2017 – % September 2017 – % November 2017 – %
Bill Nelson 38.7 33.3 31.6
Rick Scott 34.3 35.3 41.8
Someone else 10.3 10.8 8.2
Undecided 16.8 20.5 18.4

“We’re still almost a year out from the 2018 elections, but Rick Scott is in the best position he’s been in yet against incumbent Bill Nelson,” Orlando. “It will be interesting to see if he can maintain this support while his party is hurting electorally throughout the country.”

Governor’s Race
With Scott’s term as governor expiring at the end of the year, the race has been wide open among both potential Democratic and Republican contenders within their own parties.

Orlando attorney John Morgan had been one of the most visible Democratic contenders. But the day after Thanksgiving—which happened to be the final day the poll was being conducted— Morgan withdrew from the race. Among Democratic voters in the survey (numbering 181), Morgan attracted the potential support of only 12.7 percent. That put him second after the 53 percent who said they were unsure.

Other Democrats trailed behind former U.S. Congresswoman Gwen Graham, with 9.4 percent.

“With John Morgan not running for governor as a Democrat (but possibly running as an independent), the Democratic primary is even more wide open than it was before,” Orlando said. “No one has been able to rally establishment support and win the invisible primary. With some uncertainty removed as Morgan took himself out of contention, the process of winnowing the field might finally begin in earnest.”

Among Republicans, Adam Putnam, the state commissioner of agriculture, is definitely seeking the primary win to be the Republican gubernatorial candidate, and came in at 15.1 percent. That is the second-place position following the 62.7 percent of Republicans who are not sure. This pattern has continued since the March 2017 survey. In a question posed to all respondents about which gubernatorial candidate they would prefer and when John Morgan was still contemplating running, Putnam also lagged behind the Democrat, with 18.6 percent of the survey base compared to Morgan’s 24 percent. But 49.4 percent were undecided.

“Adam Putnam isn’t in an insurmountable position, but he’s at least the leader in the clubhouse,” Orlando commented. “Other prominent GOPers are busy fulfilling the duties of their office or in the news for the wrong reasons. It’s difficult to compare Putnam against Morgan at this point, as our results show that voters would still prefer someone else in the governor’s mansion.”

More detailed results are available at:

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).

About the Poll
METHODOLOGY: The survey was conducted November 19 through November 24, 2017 using an online online survey instrument. Results were collected from 500 respondents across Florida. The 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.


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 more than 13,000 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 90,000 alumni reside in all 50 states, in Washington, DC, in three U.S. territories, and in 76 countries.