Times poll: Dems want primary results to count
Howard Dean and Barack Obama may insist Florida’s Democratic presidential primary was meaningless, but a new poll shows Florida Democrats aren’t buying it, and one in four may not back their party's nominee in November if Florida winds up with no voice in the nomination.
Not only do Florida Democrats say that the Democratic presidential contenders’ boycott of their primary had little effect, but an overwhelming plurality want the officially meaningless results to count, a new St. Petersburg Times/Bay News 9 poll finds.
A record 1.75-million Florida Democrats voted in the Jan. 29 primary, which Hillary Rodham Clinton won by 17 percentage points, but as punishment for holding the primary earlier than allowed by the national party, no delegates were at stake. Now, as a nomination stalemate looms, the candidates and state and national party leaders are struggling to figure out how and if America’s biggest swing state can have a voice in the Democratic nomination.
"If there’s one thing that this survey says is you have to acknowledge the Jan. 29 primary on some level," said pollster Tom Eldon. "You really can’t say the Florida primary was a non-event to voters. It was a non-event to Howard Dean according to the rules of the DNC.”
Twice as many Clinton supporters -- 56 percent -- want the Florida primary to count as do Obama supporters -- 27 percent. Still, even among Obama supporters, the idea of counting that primary is slightly more popular than holding a new election or dividing Florida’s delegates evenly between the two candidates.
“We’ve been not counted so often and especially in this state that has felt for so many years that our vote doesn’t count, to not count our votes again would be so detrimental -- especially for our youth," said Tallahassee resident Molly Gosline, 45, executive director of a nonprofit group and a Clinton supporter.
But Carly Loiseau, a 29-year-old nurse and Obama supporter in Wesley Chapel, didn’t bother voting in January because she knew Florida had no delegates and said it would be unfair to count the election now.
"I blame the state of Florida, the Democratic party. They knew the rules and they could have followed the rules like the rest of the country, but they chose not to," said Loiseau, a nurse.
Other key findings in the poll:
- Obama has gained strength in Florida, and today lags Clinton among Florida Democrats 46 percent to 37 percent, with Clinton leading by 33 percentage points among white Democrats and 20 points among Hispanics. Obama leads among African-Americans, 74 percent to 12 percent.
- Florida Democrats point the finger of blame for the primary debacle in several directions: 28 percent blame Republican leaders in the Legislature, 25 percent blame Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, and 20 percent blame the Florida Democratic party.
- More than three out of four Florida Democrats say it’s “very important” that Florida’s delegates count toward the nomination, and one in four said they would be less likely to support the ultimate Democratic nominee if Florida’s delegates don’t count.
- The state party’s decision to scrap a do-over primary by mail looks wise with fewer than 1 in 10 Democrats saying they considered that the best way to resolve the issue and only one in four saying they would trust a mail-in election to show the will of the people.
The telephone survey of 600 registered Democrats and frequent Florida voters was conducted March 15-17 for the St. Petersburg Times, Bay News 9 and the Miami Herald. The poll was done by Schroth, Eldon & Associates, whose clients primarily are Democrats. The margin of error was plus or minus 4 percentage points.
The poll suggests most Florida Democrats viewed the Jan. 29 primary as a legitimate election.
For instance, only 15 percent of those surveyed said their main interest in voting was the Amendment 1 tax reform initiative, while 43 percent said the Democratic primary was the big draw and 40 percent said both were equally important to them. Likewise, 56 percent of those surveyed said the lack of Florida campaigning by the major candidates had "no effect at all" and 16 percent said it had a "major effect" on their choices.