TALLAHASSEE — Florida voters love Gov. Rick Scott's idea of a teacher pay raise, and they agree with him on the need to expand Medicaid. But they don't like him, and Scott would lose handily to former Gov. Charlie Crist in a hypothetical 2014 matchup for governor, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll.
Crist, a recent convert to the Democratic Party who may run for governor, would defeat Scott 50 percent to 34 percent, the poll found. And 50 percent of voters support Crist's decision to switch to the Democratic Party.
The poll said Democrat Alex Sink, who narrowly lost to Scott in 2010, leads him in a potential rematch, 45 percent to 34 percent.
Scott's woeful job approval numbers persist.
Only 32 percent of voters say he deserves a second term in office, including 28 percent of independent voters. In addition, 36 percent of voters say he is doing a good job compared to 49 percent who say he's doing a bad job, including 26 percent of Republicans in Florida.
"What I work on every day is making sure that I do what I said I would do when I ran," Scott said, citing the new state unemployment rate of 7.8 percent, the first time in five years the jobless rate has fallen below the national average. "In November 2014, people are going to look at my track record, and they're going to say, did I do what I said I was going to do?"
Scott's difficulties with voters endure even though his latest policies play well.
Voters overwhelmingly support his top priority of a $2,500 across-the-board pay raise for teachers, 74 percent to 21 percent. By a narrower margin of 50 percent to 40 percent, they agree with Scott's stand on expanding Medicaid to cover new recipients in Florida, and 56 percent of voters support the state's "stand your ground" law.
By a margin of 50 percent to 34 percent, voters disapprove of the way Scott is handling the state budget.
One piece of positive news for Scott in the poll is that in a hypothetical Republican primary matchup, the governor would easily defeat Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, 47 percent to 24 percent. The number suggests that Scott need not be fearful of a serious challenge from the right as he seeks a second term next year.
Voters are unhappy with the performance of the Florida Legislature, the poll said. Fifty-two percent of voters disapprove of the way the Legislature is handling its job and 25 percent approve, with 23 percent undecided.
The Quinnipiac poll surveyed 1,000 voters between March 13 and 18 with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.
Contact Steve Bousquet at email@example.com or (850) 224-7263.