JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Healthcare concerns, gubernatorial contention from John Morgan and statewide approval for Governor Rick Scott’s handling of Hurricane Irma are a few of the highlights in the most recent political poll from the Florida Chamber of Commerce.
Despite the historical statewide evacuation and widespread destruction seen in South Florida, 56 percent of likely voters in the Sunshine State are optimistic and believe the state is headed in the right direction, according to the Florida business group's recent poll.
“It’s heartwarming when voters believe Florida is headed in the right direction immediately after a hurricane,” said Marian Johnson, senior vice president of political operations at the Florida Chamber of Commerce.
Around 78 percent of Republican voters who were polled believe the state is headed in the right direction, while just 41 percent of Democrats and 41 percent of no party affiliation (NPA) voters agree with the notion.
Of the total 615 likely voters in Florida who were polled earlier this month, 91 percent of them approved of Governor Scott’s preparation and response in handling Hurricane Irma.
Along party lines, 95 percent of Republicans approved of his performance, while 89 percent of Democrats found his execution favorable. In addition, 86 percent of NPA voters approved of his crisis performance.
“Despite Hurricane Irma’s destruction, Floridians believe securing Florida’s long-term future is more important than short-term politics,” Johnson said.
Consequently, Scott’s overall job performance rating has increased to 63 percent approval, an 11-point uptick from the 52 percent approval rating he received in July.
The governor has also gained a slight advantage over incumbent Bill Nelson in a head-to-head matchup for the position of U.S. Senator. Scott is favored by 47 percent of likely voters to Nelson’s 45 percent in a race that Scott has yet to declare for, according to the poll.
Among the issues that weighed the heaviest on the hearts of those who were polled, 16 percent of likely voters in Florida agreed that healthcare was the most important, followed by jobs and economy and then education.
Immigration and global warming remained somewhat of a concern for Floridians, while issues involving guns, terrorism and even marijuana barely registered among voters at this time, according to the poll.
Surprisingly, Orlando attorney John Morgan, whose name has seemingly become synonymous with medical marijuana, found considerable favoritism among a list of Democratic gubernatorial candidates who have already declared for the 2018 election.
The only Democrat who was found more favorable – as well as unfavorable – and more renown than Morgan was Senator Bill Nelson, according to the poll. In addition, 23 percent of Democrats said they would support Morgan over the likes of Gwen Graham and Andrew Gillum, who have emerged as front-runners for the party since declaring. Forty-four percent of the Democratic voters who were polled, however, indicated that they were undecided.
Twenty percent of Florida voters said they found Morgan unfavorable, compared to the 22 percent of likely voters who found Nelson unfavorable. Only 35 percent of voters indicated they had never heard of Morgan, compared to the 58 percent for Graham and 72 percent for Gillum.
Morgan has previously stated that he has seriously considered running for governor of Florida and has the financial means to do so, but remains undecided on the matter.
"I think it's better for me to just watch and see," Morgan said back in July. "Maybe the people of Florida will go, 'You know what, we love what you are saying,' and demand it or they say, 'You know what, you're really not our cup of tea. You'll get the feel for that. You know when somebody wants to go out on a date with you and when they don't."
Morgan said if he does decide to run for governor, he will be the most "pro-business" candidate on the political playing field, with a diverse portfolio of business endeavors and work experience to back up his claim.
“I think about it all the time and people come up to me all the time and you know, I know this, I know that there is nobody in Florida that would fight for the forgotten and the powerless like me,” said Morgan.
Among the Republican candidate totem pole for 2018, Scott ranked the highest in favoritism with 57 percent, followed by U.S. Senator Marco Rubio at 49 percent and Adam Putnam at 24 percent, according to the poll. Forty percent of voters, however, found Rubio as an unfavorable candidate heading into the 2018 elections, slightly higher than the 38 percent who found Scott unfavorable.
Further down the GOP line, U.S. Representative Ron DeSantis was found favorable among 12 percent of Florida voters, while Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran was favored by 14 percent and Florida Senator Jack Latvala by 8 percent. Among those three, Latvala is the only candidate who has declared his intentions to run for governor.
Of the Republicans who were polled, 26 percent said Putnam had their vote in a primary election for governor, while DeSantis ranked a distant second at 9 percent. Latvala garnered two percent of support from Republican voters, next to Corcoran’s one percent. Additionally, three percent of Republican voters would elect someone else and an overwhelming 59 percent remain undecided on the matter.
In a head-to-head general election matchup for governor, Morgan would garner 37 percent of the votes to Putnam’s 40 percent if the election had been held this month, according to the poll. Putnam would also win out against Graham, according to the poll, if the election were held this month.
The Florida Chamber of Commerce political poll was conducted by Cherry Communications between Sept. 17 and Sept. 24 during live telephone interviews of likely voters. The margin of error for the poll is four percent and the sample size included 263 Democrat, 256 Republican and 96 NPA likely voters for a total of 615 respondents statewide.