Polls show Nelson-Scott on course for tight U.S. Senate battle

Scott hasn't yet declared but is expected to be the GOP nominee to take on Democrat Nelson.
From the Mason-Dixon poll released Feb. 7, 2018.
From the Mason-Dixon poll released Feb. 7, 2018.
Published Feb. 7, 2018|Updated Feb. 7, 2018

WASHINGTON — Bill Nelson and Rick Scott are virtually tied for U.S. Senate, a new Mason-Dixon poll shows, while a second poll released Wednesday morning shows Nelson with more breathing room. And just to make things more confusing, a third poll showed Scott up 10 percentage points.

Democratic Sen. Nelson gets 45 percent of the vote vs. 44 percent for Republican Gov. Scott in a hypothetical race, the M-D poll shows. In October two tow were tied at 44 percent. A year ago, Nelson was up 5 points.

A University of North Florida poll has Nelson with 48 percent of the vote and Scott 42 percent.

"Even though it appears Nelson has a reasonable lead in the poll, the election results will ultimately get determined by who shows up in November," said Michael Binder, director of UNF's Public Opinion Research Lab. "Historically, Republicans have enjoyed a turnout advantage in midterms, but with the current moods of the country, and a large number of Republican retirements, Democrats are optimistic about an impending blue wave."

Brad Coker of Mason-Dixon said the data shows the Nelson-Scott race could answer a larger question about the direction of the country given President Trump.

"With such little movement over the course of a year, particularly given the strong level of partisanship with in Congress and the divisiveness among voters in their views of President Trump, this race may be destined to become the bellwether contest of  the country," Coker said.

The Mason-Dixon poll was conducted Jan. 30-Feb. 1 and included 625 registered Florida voters interviewed by phone statewide. The MOE is +/1 4 percentage points.

The UNF poll was conducted Jan. 29-Feb. 4 and more detail is  here.

The third poll out today is from Florida Atlantic University and showed Scott with a 10 percentage point lead, "a 12-point swing from an August 2017 poll that showed him trailing Nelson 42 to 40 percent.Scott's favorable rating jumped to 52 percent, up three points since November 2017, while his unfavorable rating has dropped five percentage points to 34 percent. Nelson has seen his numbers go in the opposite direction, with his favorable rating dipping from 45 to 40 percent, while his unfavorable number jumped from 22 to 27 percent."Scott's increasing favorability rating is reflected in the double-digit lead he has opened up in our hypothetical matchup," said Monica Escaleras, Ph.D., director of the BEPI. "However, with 22 percent of voters saying they're undecided, there's still plenty of opportunity for Nelson to turn things around."

A few more nuggets from the UNF poll:

> When asked about how Sen. Marco Rubio is handling his job, 55 percent strongly or somewhat approve, compared to the 35 percent who reported to somewhat or strongly disapprove.

> When asked about President Donald Trump's job approval rating, 43 percent of the overall sample strongly or somewhat approve of how he's handling his job, with 53 percent disapproving somewhat or strongly. A large amount of registered Democrats—87 percent—disapprove of Trump, while only 16 percent of registered Republicans disapprove. On the contrary, Trump held 81 percent job approval among registered Republicans, compared to 40 percent approval among nonpartisans and a dismal 10 percent job approval among registered Democrats.

"Most presidents would consider 43 percent approval and net negative 10 percentage points a troubling number, but Trump's approval is up 6 percentage points from his approval level in October, and his net negatives have improved by 12 percentage points," noted Binder.