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Poll shows increase in Florida voters' dislike for Gov. Rick Scott

TALLAHASSEE — Booed at a ballpark. Protested at a parade. Mocked on fake dollar bills.

Rick Scott doesn't just seem more disliked — he is, in fact, growing increasingly unpopular, according to the latest Quinnipiac University survey of 1,499 registered Florida voters.

The poll found that 48 percent disapprove of the job Scott is doing — more than double the level measured in a February poll.

Only 35 percent give the Republican newcomer a favorable rating, exactly what it was more than a month ago.

Scott said he wasn't concerned with the poll. He just wants to fix problems.

"I'm not trying to win most popular," he said. "I'm trying to make sure this state is the most likely to succeed."

The reasons for Scott's popularity problems are varied. Among them:

• An economy on life support in a state where 60 percent of voters say they're dissatisfied.

• Power scuffles with lawmakers from his own party.

• A newly energized left that deeply dislikes him.

• A hard-right governing style that seems to estrange Democrats as well as middle-of-the-road independent voters who swing elections — 48 percent of them disapprove of Scott while 33 percent approve.

"Today, Scott is a four-letter word to many Florida voters, but political popularity can change with time," Quinnipiac pollster Peter A. Brown said.

"The fact that Scott is as unpopular as the state Legislature, which has a 47–35 percent disapproval rating, is evidence of the depth of his problem," Brown said in a statement. "It is exceedingly rare for an unindicted governor or president to ever be seen as poorly by the electorate as his Legislature or Congress."

Compared to his predecessors, Govs. Charlie Crist and Jeb Bush, Scott's poll numbers are in the cellar.

Also weighing on Scott: his proposed budget, which calls for deep cuts and as many as 6,000 actual state-worker layoffs. More than half of voters, 53 percent, say the proposed budget and its cuts are unfair to people like them. About 37 percent say it's fair.

Slightly more than a third approve of the way Scott has handled the budget, while 55 percent oppose.

Almost half of voters say Scott's budget cuts go "too far," 16 percent want more cuts and 29 percent say the cuts are "about right." About 95 percent of Florida voters say the state's budget situation is serious.

But the Quinnipiac poll is not all bad news for Scott. Voters overwhelmingly approve of his plan to drug test current state workers and job applicants. It says 78 percent like the idea; only 20 percent are opposed.

Also, 59 percent of voters like the idea of making state workers contribute more toward their retirements — a Scott idea.

Voters are about evenly split on Scott's idea to deeply cut corporate-income and property taxes, with a slightly bigger margin of people opposed. But voters overwhelmingly oppose the idea of balancing the budget by raising some taxes instead of just making cuts.

The Legislature has largely ignored Scott's big-ticket budget and tax cuts in the meantime. The unions and the thousands of people who depend on the state budget and blanched at Scott's cuts have swung into action, and have increasingly begun to oppose the governor.

Scott also has tussled with lawmakers over the way he sold off two state planes and his unilateral decision to cancel a high-speed rail project prized by Central Florida lawmakers and business leaders.

On Friday, on opening day of the Tampa Bay Rays baseball season, a good portion of the crowd booed him when he made the first pitch. On Saturday, at the Springtime Tallahassee parade, Scott was greeted with protest placards that accused him of costing the state jobs. He was booed as well.

Then, on Wednesday, advocates for the developmentally disabled issued mock currency bearing Scott's picture in opposition to his decision to declare an emergency and deeply cut rates for those who serve people with autism, cerebral palsy and Down syndrome.

Scott has long maintained that he'll do fine as long as he handles the most important issue: jobs.

And Brown, the Quinnipiac pollster, points out that early polls don't mean much because voters are fickle.

Consider the case of Charlie Crist, who enjoyed a "stratospheric" job-approval rating of 73 percent three months into his first term, according to a March 2007 Quinnipiac poll. Only 9 percent said he was doing a bad job.

Yet, slowly, Crist's popularity eroded as the economy deteriorated and he was unable to win election in November in his U.S. Senate race.

The Quinnipiac poll isn't the only survey that finds Scott deeply unpopular. Last week, Public Policy Polling said just 32 percent of voters approved of Scott's job performance — compared to 55 percent of voters who disliked the job he was doing.

The firm, associated with Democratic candidates, noted that Scott took office with poor job-approval ratings. Scott, compared to each of the other three Republicans elected statewide to the Florida Cabinet in November, received the fewest votes and barely beat his Democratic rival.

"You could say Rick Scott's honeymoon is over," Tom Jensen, a public policy polling analyst wrote last week. "But that would suggest he had one in the first place."

Poll shows increase in Florida voters' dislike for Gov. Rick Scott 04/06/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 6, 2011 10:42pm]
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