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New polls: Florida voters just disapprove

Florida voters just disapprove.

Whether it's Democratic President Barack Obama, Republican Gov. Rick Scott, their political parties, the tea party, the Occupy Wall Street movement or plans to trim entitlements, all get relatively low marks in the eyes of Florida voters, two public-opinion surveys released Thursday show.

One of the polls, by Quinnipiac University, showed that Florida was the most-displeased swing state when compared to contemporaneous surveys conducted in Ohio and Pennsylvania. A full 83 percent of Floridians said they were dissatisfied with the direction of the nation.

When it comes to just Florida Republicans, there's not much of a sense of satisfaction with their candidates for the White House. None is a clear frontrunner. Mitt Romney, essentially running for president since 2008, is statistically tied with Herman Cain, a political newcomer who is the latest in Romney alternatives.

Here's what GOP voters especially like: Medicare and Social Security, according to an AARP poll of 500 likely Florida Republican voters. And those are the two programs that their candidates want to reform and trim.

"There's a major disconnect between what the candidates and other folks in Washington want and what the voters think when it comes to Social Security and Medicare," said Jeff Johnson, AARP's interim Florida director.

"For the candidates and lawmakers, Social Security is a budget problem we need to fix the math on. Medicare is a budget problem we need to fix the math on," Johnson said. "But this isn't about math for voters. This is about voters' retirement."

By wide margins, the survey shows that Republicans of all kinds — whether they're Hispanic, moderates or in the tea party — would rather fix the nation's budget by withdrawing from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, eliminating foreign aid or eliminating so-called tax loopholes.

The issues are particularly important in Florida, which has the largest number of retirees in the nation. The poll shows that 60 percent of the Republican primary voters in Florida are retired, and that 87 percent of all respondents say Social Security benefits are or will be important to their retirement. Nearly 45 percent say they rely on Medicare for health insurance.

What's unclear is how much of a politically toxic issue entitlement cuts would be. After all, Marco Rubio advocated increasing the retirement age for future Social Security recipients, and he was handily chosen to be the Republican Party's standard bearer before he won the general election last year in the U.S. Senate race.

Rubio's not on the ballot. But he could be a vice-presidential pick — though, in another sign of the lack of enthusiasm in the air, he says he doesn't want the job.

In the AARP poll, conducted by Idaho-based GS Strategy Group, Romney pulls in 31 percent of the vote, Cain gets 29 percent and Newt Gingrich is at 12 percent. Gingrich's numbers are growing thanks to strong debate performances. Rick Perry's numbers are expected to shrink after Wednesday night's debate, in which he couldn't remember his own talking points.

Despite the strong showing in the Republican field, Cain fares less well against Obama, partly due to a relative lack of support among women as the GOP candidate fends off multiple sex-harassment charges that he disputes.

The Quinnipiac University poll of registered Republicans showed Cain leading the field with 27 percent, Romney with 21 percent and Gingrich in third place with 17 percent of the vote.

But only Romney leads Obama, 45-42, in a general-election matchup, though that is a statistical tie owing to the poll's 2.9 percent error margin. Obama appears to do better against the other Republican candidates.

The Quinnipiac poll shows that Romney and Obama are the most trusted candidates. Romney is viewed more favorably than all others and is considered the best to handle the economy.

Voters disapprove of Obama's job performance by a 52-41 percent split. By a 51-43 percent spread, they say he does not deserve reelection. Voters dislike Scott about as much, with 50 percent disapproving of his job performance and 36 percent approving.

A plurality of voters are more likely than not to view the following unfavorably: The Republican Party (44 percent), the Democratic Party (44 percent), the tea party (40 percent), and Occupy Wall Street (39 percent).

Nationally, Republican leaders are calling for changes and cuts to entitlement programs and are refusing to budge on increasing taxes.

But even modest changes to benefits for future retirees are opposed by 66 percent of GOP voters, the poll shows. Only 27 percent favor future reductions, which could include raising the retirement age, though the poll didn't specifically address that issue.

Asked if they favored or opposed reducing Medicare benefits to help reduce the deficit, only 22 percent liked the idea. About 70 percent didn't.

When given predetermined choices to cut the deficit, most voters wanted to "eliminate tax loopholes" (40 percent), cut foreign aid (34 percent) or reduce involvement in foreign wars (18 percent).

The poll didn't specify the "tax loopholes." Some loopholes are popular, such as a mortgage write-off for homeowners, and changing those tax-entitlements could also prove unpopular. Voters weren't specifically asked if they'd prefer to raise taxes.

Still, numerous other national and state surveys have shown that Republicans favor increasing some taxes to pay down the deficit.

When specifically asked if they favored Medicare cuts over withdrawing troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, only 9 percent wanted the former and 66 percent favored the latter. The numbers were similar for Social Security.

The poll also reflects an irony, of sorts, with voters: The candidates who most want to withdraw from foreign wars, Jon Huntsman and Ron Paul, were among the least likely to be favored by Republican voters.

Regardless of who makes it out of the Republican primary, Obama faces a tough go in Florida, where voters had the most negative views of the president when compared to voters in Ohio and Pennsylvania. But even there, people weren't happy with their choices or their political parties.

"In general, in the whole country, a bad economy means bad approval ratings," said Quinnipiac's Peter A. Brown. "It's just one of those things. The president suffers. In Florida, where the economy's bad, the governor suffers, too."

New polls: Florida voters just disapprove 11/10/11 [Last modified: Thursday, November 10, 2011 6:57pm]
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