Poll: Republican Vern Buchanan leads Democrat David Shapiro by 9 in key congressional race

The Republican won the district by 20 points in 2016.
Vern Buchanan and David Shapiro will appear in a televised debate next month. [Times files]
Vern Buchanan and David Shapiro will appear in a televised debate next month. [Times files]
Published Oct. 4, 2018

A new poll of the race for Florida's 16th Congressional District is sort of a good news-bad news situation for Democrats.

The good news? Democrat David Shapiro is running 11 points better than incumbent Republican Vern Buchanan's 2016 opponent.

The bad news? Shapiro is still behind by nine points, according to a University of North Florida poll of 551 likely voters in the district.

Buchanan garnered the support of 49 percent of those voters, while Shapiro had 40, per the poll, which was released Thursday morning. Eleven percent were undecided. (Obligatory note: this is just one poll. It's important to look at multiple polls when judging the state of a political race.)

The poll also showed that the issue of top concern to CD-16 voters is the environment — which is perhaps unsurprising given the recent public scuffling about that topic from the campaigns of Shapiro and Buchanan.

Read more: Environment becomes latest flashpoint in race for Vern Buchanan's congressional seat

Perhaps Shapiro is winning that messaging battle or others. Maybe it's just a great year to be a Democrat. Maybe it's a little of both. Whatever the reason, the poll showed that the personal injury lawyer is running stronger than expected, UNF's pollster said.

"This historically strong Republican district is closer than it should be," said Michael Binder, the UNF Public Opinion Research Lab's faculty director, in a release touting the survey.

One statistic that shows how CD-16 leans to the right is President Trump's approval in the district. The UNF poll showed that 54 percent of likely voters approve of the president, while 45 percent disapprove. If Shapiro is to unseat Buchanan, he'll have to overcome some strong partisan headwinds in the district.

The live-caller survey was conducted from Sept. 30 through Oct. 2. CD-16 includes parts of Sarasota, Manatee and Hillsborough counties.