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Poll: Florida voters want to decide whether to ban offshore oil drilling

Nearly three-quarters of Floridians support giving the state's voters a chance to decide whether to permanently ban offshore oil drilling, a new poll shows.

The Quinnipiac University survey — which comes a week after the Florida Legislature rejected Gov. Charlie Crist's proposal to put a referendum on the ballot — shows that 72 percent of voters support such a move.

The poll results show that after more than 100 days of dealing with the Deepwater Horizon disaster, Floridians who had been leaning toward allowing drilling in state waters have now largely turned against it.

"Voters are obviously wary of offshore oil drilling given what's happened in the gulf," said Quinnipiac pollster Peter A. Brown.

The poll suggests the referendum might have passed had it been on a ballot: 62 percent said they support an amendment to the Florida Constitution to ban drilling within 10 miles of the coast. Though support for oil drilling had increased in recent years as gas prices spiked, the latest poll shows a little more than half — 51 percent — oppose increasing the amount of offshore drilling.

However, Brown said it was unclear whether the issue would prove to be a factor for Crist's independent bid for the U.S. Senate.

"Whether it will be pressing on Election Day, that's another question," Brown said.

Still, nearly half of those polled agree that there "is no need'' for a constitutional amendment because offshore oil drilling is already barred by state law — the position taken by legislative leaders opposed to Crist's call for a constitutional ban.

The Republican-led Legislature had dismal job-approval ratings in the poll, but it was the same 30 percent approval rating as registered in June, Brown said.

The newest poll was conducted July 22-27, just days after the Legislature shot down the drilling proposal and after BP officials announced they had secured a temporary cap to stem the gushing oil from the well.

"The Legislature's popularity is awful, but it's always awful," Brown said. "Legislatures are always lower than the executive branch."

With the gusher in the gulf capped for two weeks, the survey shows a slight uptick in President Barack Obama's ratings: 44 percent approved of his response to the oil spill — compared to 37 percent who disapproved in June.

The same went for Obama's overall job-approval rating. Just 46 percent approved of his job performance, an improvement from his 40 percent approval rating in the June poll. And, mirroring national polls, it shows support for the health care bill edging up, from 34 percent approval in June to 36 percent approval.

Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson gets a 46 percent job-approval rating, while just 21 percent of voters approved of the job that Republican Sen. George LeMieux is doing.

The poll of 969 voters carries a margin of error of 3.2 percentage points.

Times/Herald staff writer Craig Pittman contributed to this report.

Poll: Florida voters want to decide whether to ban offshore oil drilling 07/30/10 [Last modified: Saturday, July 31, 2010 12:12am]
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