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Gov. Rick Scott's approval rating rises to 35 percent

TALLAHASSEE — Most Floridians say they don't like the way Gov. Rick Scott has handled his job, disapprove of his policies and object to his handling of the state budget, according to a Quinnipiac poll released Friday.

There was, however, a glimmer of good news for Scott: His approval rating rose to 35 percent, a 6 point increase since May. And his numbers among independent voters, a politically crucial group in a swing state like Florida, aren't as bad as President Barack Obama's.

But 45 percent say they don't like him personally, the highest percentage for any governor in the seven states polled by the Connecticut university. And 33 percent of Floridians are "very dissatisfied" with the direction of the state, a new high since the school started polling Florida in 2004.

"The improvement in Scott's numbers comes primarily from those who would be expected to support him, Republicans and men. But he still has a long way to go to reach the numbers that historically back Republicans," said Peter Brown, the university's assistant polling director.

Scott's approval rating was 7 percent among black voters and 29 percent among all voters ages 35 to 54. His overall approval was 35 percent for the third time in four polls since he took office in January.

"I ran on a very specific platform to turn the state around. It was to make the tough choices that people aren't willing to make," Scott said Friday in an interview on WTSP Channel 10's The Morning Show in St. Petersburg.

Later in a visit to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' training facility, Scott deflected a question about the poll results.

"Look, my job is putting people back to work," he said. "I have three jobs. I want every child in this state to get the best education they can. I want to make sure everybody has an opportunity to get a job. And I've got to make sure I keep the cost of living as low as possible so people want to continue to flock to our state. And that's my job."

The first-time politician has made significant changes after previous polls and this summer replaced his top advisers and substituted his tie and jacket for a more casual open collar.

And while Scott is still more than three years away from re-election, he's the head of the state's Republican Party heading into the 2012 presidential election.

If Scott's poll numbers don't improve, he'll be marginalized in his party's attempt to unseat a pair of Democrats: U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and Obama.

Democrats jumped on the numbers, mocking Scott's rise in the polls by linking it to his weeklong summer vacation in Montana. "Florida likes when he is gone," Florida Democratic Party spokesman Eric Jotkoff said.

Scott's overall approval is worse than the Democratic president, who has a 44 percent approval in Florida.

But Scott's disapproval rating among independents isn't as bad.

For voters who identify themselves as neither Republican nor Democrat, 50 percent disapprove of Scott performance and 61 percent say the same about Obama.

And while 34 percent of voters say they disapprove of Scott's policies, that contradicts with previous polls that surveyed specific proposals.

One of Scott's top priorities, forcing state workers to contribute to their retirement, polled as high as 64 percent. In another survey, Scott's order to randomly drug-test state workers won support from 78 percent. (Both changes are being challenged in court.)

On the state budget, 51 percent said it was unfair to "people like you." But just 24 percent knew that lawmakers did not raise taxes, while 19 percent incorrectly believed the budget included higher taxes and 57 percent said they didn't know.

The poll also showed 83 percent support for a "Caylee's Law," which would create a felony offense for parents who fail to report a missing child in a timely manner.

The July 27-Aug. 2 poll of 1,417 registered voters had a margin of error of 3.8 percentage points. The poll of 510 Republicans had an error margin of 4.3 points.

Times staff writer Rick Stroud contributed to this report. Michael C. Bender can be reached at mbender@sptimes.com.

Gov. Rick Scott's approval rating rises to 35 percent 08/05/11 [Last modified: Friday, August 5, 2011 8:32pm]

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